By Luana M. Graves Sellars

If you ask Native Islander, Ben Greene how long he’s lived on Hilton Head, he says that “he was born here long before there was any industry” and life was simple. “There were no babysitters here, all of the neighbors looked after us.” He grew up here before the bridge, at a time when there was “nothing to do, so we had to find something to do with our hands. And fishing was “how we fed ourselves back in the day.” 

As a child, Ben started fishing with “just a string and a hook” and eventually upgraded to a snatch hook or snagging, which is used to snatch up the fish as they swim by. 

Greene was the 1st Black police officer in Thunderbolt and spent eight years in the Army, before receiving a medical discharge. While living on the island, Greene started a few businesses until he got sick. Regardless of what he did, his childhood love for fishing has always remained. “Fishing is the thrill of a lifetime and lets you experience the ocean and the challenges of the weather.”

Ben Greene
Photo Credit: Lloyd Wainscott

For years, he fished so much, that he would just give them away. Eventually, he decided to share his love for the sport by finding kids at his church who wanted to learn fishing casting and crabbing. 

It’s easy to see the joy that Greene gets from sharing his joy for fishing with a child for the first time. He says that he enjoys the “thrill of seeing the kids reaction when they catch the fish.” With a laugh, he says, “they don’t want to hurt them. The little ones are so surprised to see what you get after you put the bait in.”

As the program grew, he moved it to to the Island Rec. Today, there are as many as 80 kids who come out every week to cast a line and learn lifelong skills. There are a lot of benefits to learning how to fish. Not only are they learning how to become self-reliant, but they are developing confidence, patience, an appreciation for nature and how to relax. Most importantly, the kids are bonding with their friends and family.  The kids are turning off their electronic devices and spending quality time outdoors. They’re realizing that “there’s more to life than video games.” 

“If I could get one kid to become hooked on fishing and give them the opportunity to have some quiet time to reflect, it makes such a difference; it could change someone’s life. And their reward is that at the end, you can eat it.”

Ben Greene
Ben Greene spending his Saturdays teaching local children about the joys of fishing.
Photo Credit : Lloyd Wainscott

Ben is on dialysis and recently had issues with his eye. Regardless of what he’s going through, it hasn’t stopped him from being at the Rowing Center for the kids. He has the kind of giving heart and love for our community that makes living here special.  

It’s been five years since he started the program and a lot of volunteers help and provide financial support, although Greene is always looking for funding and donations so that he can expand and involve more children. 

If you are interested in having your child participate, join Ben every Saturday from March until October from 4 to 7 PM at the Rowing Center on Squire Pope Road. 

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