Chase Blasé has a secret. Each summer, the 14-year-old eighth grader disappears five-days-a-week, eight-hours-a-day and his friends have no idea where he goes.
Each morning he travels with his mom from their home in Manassas to Frying Pan Park in Herndon. There Chase's mom works at the preschool, and he volunteers and is active in the 4-H Livestock Club.
"None of my friends know I work on a farm. They would tease me if they found out," Chase said. "So I keep it a secret."
Chase is making the most of his volunteer experience, hoping to one day raise livestock, specifically pigs, of his own. And soon he will get even more practice when his family moves to a 4-acre spread in Culpeper, baptized Blazin' Acres Farm, where Chase hopes to raise small animals, while continuing to volunteer at Frying Pan Park.
"CHASE BLASÉ is an integral part of the Frying Pan Park staff. He feeds animals, cleans facilities, helps with newborn births, assists with farm events and supervises and trains other volunteers," said Sherry Bizette, Frying Pan Park volunteer and programs coordinator. "Chase has volunteered for several years and has contributed over 600 hours."
For all his dedication, Chase was awarded the 2002 Ed Gordon Youth Award, which honors the top volunteer at the park, and was also recognized by the Fairfax County Park Authority at a reception for outstanding volunteers, in recognition of National Volunteer Week, April 27-May 3.
Chase began volunteering at the park when he was 9 years old. During the summer, he matches his mother's work hours. During the school year he cuts back, working during spring break and some after-school hours.
"I JUST DO CHORES, feeding the animals, cleaning the barns, and a couple of projects," Chase said. "The biggest thing going on right now is planting the fields, but I miss that because of school."
Besides learning the ins and outs of running a farm, Chase is also learning to be a stockman, a sort-of judge who rates livestock, breeds and meats at shows, through the 4-H Club. Outside of his park duties, Chase helps the park manager, Todd Brown, in selecting and showing animals, including one of his own each year, which are kept on Brown's parents' farm in Ohio. In addition, Chase also finds time to play baseball on his school team.
"Chase's duties have increased with his willingness to do whatever needs to be done," Bizette said. "The park staff thinks that Chase should change his name to 'Chase, can you do … ?' because that is always what he hears at the park and of course he always says yes."
CHASE'S EXPOSURE to the different farm animals has lead to his fondness for raising pigs, although he helps out with all the animals.
"The breed of pigs I show, nobody else likes them," Chase said. "They have floppy ears and they're dumb, but I do well with them so I'm sticking with them."
He does however, avoid getting attached, many of the animals at the show go to market afterwards.
He got his first taste of farm life as a youngster. His grandfather and dad grew up on a farm.
"When I was little I would go to sales and raise calves. My grandfather had a few acres and we kept animals on the farm," he said. "I just got interested in it. I want to be a farmer, but have a side job working with animals."