Meet the 2018 Orvis Breaking Barriers Award Recipient


Whitney Milhoan poses with Casting for Recovery’s “Judy” the Pink Drift Boat.
Photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

In 2015, Orvis created the Breaking Barriers Award to honor individuals who have gone above and beyond to introduce the sport of fly fishing to a more diverse audience. Past recipients have created programs for inner-city youth, under-served veterans, women, Alaskan natives, and children in foster care.

Last month, at a gala event during the annual Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Asheville, North Carolina, we presented the 2018 Breaking Barriers Award is Whitney Milhoan, executive director of Casting for Recovery (CfR).

The mission of CfR is to enhance the quality of life for women with breast cancer through a unique retreat program that combines breast-cancer education and peer support with the therapeutic sport of fly fishing. In the five years since she was hired, Milhoan has focused on expanding the program to meet the needs of more ethnically diverse women, as well as those of limited means. (All CfR retreats are free of charge.)


A happy moment from the first-ever CfR retreat exclusively for Native American women.
Photo courtesy Casting for Recovery

Last year, CfR began offering retreats for women with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, giving them an opportunity to express their deepest concerns with those in the same situation. This year, the organization will partner with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing to create retreats for women in the military, whose experiences can be markedly different from those of civilian women. In 2017 alone, Milhoan and her team added 10 new programs, hosted 55 retreats in 44 states, and introduced 770 women to fly fishing.

Milhoan grew up near Glacier National Park. She attended the University of Montana while working as a fly-fishing and rafting guide. It was during this time that she was first introduced to CfR. After graduation, she worked with several nonprofit organizations, utilizing outdoor therapies to promote physical and emotional healing, where she learned, “Outdoor experiences renew our spirits and remind us that we’re alive.” Casting for Recovery was the ideal next step.


Whitney Milhoan shows off a fine rainbow from Montana’s Bitterroot River.
Photo courtesy AMFF

To sum it up, Milhoan said, “I’m honored to accept the Breaking Barriers Award on behalf of the founding pioneers of CfR, our hardworking staff and board, our dedicated volunteers and most importantly the brave women we serve. Orvis’s belief in our mission and in the healing powers of fly fishing provide the support we need to continue to change lives.” With her warmth, compassion, intelligence and zeal, Milhoan helps to build a road to physical and emotional wholeness for retreat participants, their families, and all those lucky enough to work with her.

Orvis is honored to name Whitney Milhoan the recipient of the 2018 Breaking Barriers Award. In celebration of the life changing work of Casting for Recovery, Orvis will donate $1 to CfR for every 2018 participant in FF101, the company’s free introductory fly fishing course.

Click here to read a great interview with Whitney on the American Museum of Fly Fishing website.

Orvis is now accepting nominations for next year. Do you know someone who is engaging new anglers, feeding the sport, and approaching things maybe just a bit differently. Click here to nominate that special person.

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