They dreamed big.
But Chuck and Elena Stowell never imagined things would snowball quite like they have.
Or in such magical fashion.
The couple’s only daughter, Carly, a Kentlake High School student-athlete, died on April 12, 2007 of an acute cardiac arrhythmia. Just days away from her 15th birthday, Carly collapsed in a North Carolina hotel room while at a tournament with her select AAU basketball team, the Emerald City Legends.
In the wake of their greatest loss, Chuck and Elena delivered one of their greatest gains last August, forming the Carly Stowell Foundation to help memorialize their daughter and create affordable athletic and music avenues for local youth.
Though it has been in existence for less than a year, the foundation already has six basketball teams and one volleyball team — all under the moniker of “Jammin” — playing under its umbrella. Two youth lacrosse teams will be added in the next month, as well.
“It’s overwhelming sometimes,” Elena acknowledged. “It’s one of those things, when you sit back and reflect about how fast it all has happened, it’s like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe it.’
“There’s just something magical about it. It’s becoming bigger faster than I anticipated. It all just snowballed.”
To celebrate the fast-growing, non-profit organization’s success, The Carly Stowell Foundation will host its inaugural “Fields of Dreams” fundraiser this Saturday at Grimstad Farms in Kent.
The fundraiser will be both an opportunity to raise money for the organization and a way of remembering Carly, who was both an accomplished athlete and musician as a freshman at Kentlake.
The event will feature dinner, dancing, with music by Chuck Stowell’s band “Second Wind,” a slideshow tribute to Carly Stowell, along with silent and live auctions.
The night will be as much about celebrating their only daughter as it will about getting the word about the foundation out to the public, Chuck said.
“Awareness is a big part of it,” he said. “We don’t feel it’s going to be a giant profit for us. We’ve been running on a shoestring budget at a little bit of a loss of our own money.”
According to its web site (www.carlystowellfoundation.org), the foundation was created “to provide enhanced education in athletics and music to young people who demonstrate passion for learning and a commitment to excel.”
The foundation is aiming to get enough funding either to build or lease a building of its own in the Kent Valley. Such a facility would include enough space for several basketball teams to compete simultaneously and be spacious enough to incorporate the musical aspect of the foundation – all at an affordable cost for athletes and musicians alike.
“Our ultimate goal is to get enough community support to actually get a local facility – one that would have four basketball courts, and a few would have volleyball standards,” Elena said. “Office space … and enough space where we could section off a room to where we could have music practice rooms.”
With its own facility, the programs offered by the foundation no longer would have to vie for valuable court time with various high school and recreation teams in the area.
“There are places in Vancouver, Portland and Spokane where they have five, six gyms in one facility,” Chuck said. “Down here in the valley, there’s nothing like that.”
But if the Stowells continue to dream big, there just might be in the future.