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Catalyzing Economic, Emotional and Spiritual Empowerment: Casting for Hope

The jury has returned its unanimous verdict: cancer is responsible for the highest economic loss of all the leading causes of death worldwide. A study from the American Cancer Society and Livestrong posits that in 2008, the global economic costs of premature death and disability from cancer totaled $895 billion, accounting for 1.5% of the world’s GDP. Dividing this between the estimated 12.4 million people diagnosed with cancer in 2008, the amount needed to cover the costs of treatment per person was a staggering $72,177 – exceeding the worldwide median per capita household income by a factor of nearly 25. From this, it is patently clear that cancer takes a heavy toll not only on the physical and mental health of its patients but also on their wallets and savings accounts. 

Fortunately, access to cancer treatment among people experiencing economic hardships is buoyed by organizations and fundraising events that work endlessly to provide assistance to cancer battlers. Casting for Hope– a charity fly fishing event that provides financial assistance to western North Carolina women diagnosed with breast or gynecologic cancer – combines an enjoyable event with a meaningful cause in the relentless pursuit to prevail over cancer for all women. 

Taylor Sharp, Co-Founder of Casting for Hope and a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, witnessed firsthand the “effects that cancer can have on a family”, during the time his mother struggled against ovarian cancer when Taylor was in sixth grade until she passed away during his junior year of high school. Casting for Hope was conceived in Taylor’s senior year. “During a dark time in my life, Casting for Hope provided light,” Taylor declares. “The emptiness that comes with losing a loved one is an incredibly powerful emotion and can be tough to bear – figuring out how to harness that emotion for good was the key to my success.”

Unlike other organizations that solely focus on defraying the expenses of cancer treatment, Casting for Hope aims to empower female cancer patients emotionally and spiritually as well as economically. Through fly-fishing retreats, fly-tying and rod-building clinics, Casting for Hope offers women “soul-restoring and emotionally-healing retreats and excursions” alongside financial assistance. John Zimmerman, Casting for Hope’s other Co-Founder and Taylor’s former English teacher, adds that his grandmother lost her battle to breast cancer when he was just about Taylor’s same age. John goes on to say that he is “so grateful that [Taylor] and I have been able to transform our pain as a mechanism for transforming the pain of others through Casting for Hope.”

Like all youths who believe fervently that service is of utmost importance, Taylor hopes to mobilize the creative talents, energy and passions of youth for community advancement. “I thrive in the service-learning type of environment […] We are all blessed in our own ways and we must use our unique skill-sets and motivations to benefit our communities.” “I’ve learned more than anything, the job of the schools is to teach kids to be citizens who will benefit those around them,” John asserts. “Of all the people I have ever known, Taylor Sharp and his vision for changing the world around him is the most profound of any I’ve been so fortunate to be part of.”

The Third Annual Casting for Hope fly fishing competition was held in Spruce Pine and Bakersville, North Carolina April 11-13, 2014.  This year's event sported official Gold-Level status from TroutLegend, the premier competitive fly-fishing league in the country.  One of only three Gold Events in the United States, Casting for Hope brought in many of the nation's top anglers.  In fact, nine of the top ten anglers in the country made the trek to the distant western North Carolina mountains. 1598 fish were recorded over the weekend, and the fish point totals are under review to determine if the event forged a new national record for three-day, five-session events.  Casting for Hope, the flagship fundraiser of our organization by the same name, is closely coordinated with National Youth Service weekend, and Casting for Hope brought in over 70 high school volunteers across the weekend with other adult help, as well.  

But Casting for Hope’s work does not stop here. “Casting for Hope is always interested in having more people on board,” Taylor urges. “From volunteering and planning fundraising events to blogging and acquiring corporate sponsors, there are many ways to help.”

Casting for Hope, a remarkable testament to the power of youth service, is an ever-flowing source of inspiration.  Uniting people from all walks of life in the fight against cancer, Casting for Hope has beautifully realized its vision of creating communities where individuals’ needs are met, service gaps are filled, and neighbors are nurtured. I have no doubt that they will continue leaving indelible marks on the women they support – and the countless lives they touch – in the near future.