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Local Roots: Ben Greene

Casting a wide net for local kids

Story by Luana Graves Sellars + Photography by Lloyd Wainscott

If you ask Native Islander Ben Greene how long he’s lived on Hilton Head, he says “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. Fishing was how we fed ourselves back in the day.”

School of fish • Each Saturday, Ben Greene teaches local children how to bait hooks, cast a reel, cast a net, handle rods and more. All fishing and crabbing equipment is provided at no charge. On the fourth Saturday of each month, Greene and his students host a community potluck dinner to enjoy their catch (and other food).

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 first 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 always remained.

“Fishing is the thrill of a lifetime and lets you experience the ocean and the challenges of the weather.”
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 of fishing with a child for the first time. 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 pull the bait in.”

Fishing is the thrill of a lifetime and lets you experience the ocean and the challenges of the weather.”

As the program grew, he moved it to the Island Rec Center. 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 the kids 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 can get one kid to become hooked on fishing and give him or her the opportunity to have some quiet time to reflect, it makes such a difference; it could change someone’s life. And the reward is that at the end of the day, you can eat what you caught.”

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.


Learn from the legend

If you are interested in having your child participate, join Ben Greene from 4-7 p.m. every Saturday (April 4-Oct. 2) at the Rowing and Sailing Center on Squire Pope Road. Learn more at onthehookwithben.com.

“There’s more to life than video games.”