July 24, 1968
|Notable credit(s)||WSVN anchor|
On April 23, 2006, Cowan's son, Wesley Cowan, died in his mother's back yard after falling from a horizontal set of monkey bars. Cowan, who is divorced from his son's mother, arrived on-scene moments after emergency crews arrived to find TV cameras focused on his own personal tragedy. The event made national news and Cowan granted his first interview on the tragedy speaking about his experience of being "on the other side of the lens".
Cowan responded to his son's death by reevaluating his life and dedicating himself to helping others in order to honor the memory of his son. He addressed his personal tragedy and his subsequent efforts to build schools in Kenya during that country's post-election violence of 2007 in his documentary, The Other Side of the Lens.
Activism and charitable activity
One year after his son's death, Cowan traveled to Africa to open two Wesley Cowan schools in Africa's Masai Mara. Shortly after his loss, Cowan started The Wesley Smiles Coalition to work in tandem with Free the Children, started by Craig Kielburger. After raising substantial monies for the projects in Africa in the first year after his son's death, Cowan opened schools, water treatment facilities, mobile-medical clinics and other community infrastructure along Enelerai road in Kenya and in Kenya's Motoni district. Cowan's journey to Africa was chronicled by the Deseret News in Salt Lake City where he told reporters, "I will raise at least one school a year in my son's name until the day I die."
Cowan is on the advisory board for Free The Children and is producer of the youth organization Power In You. Cowan drafted the first legislation in Utah aimed at the stopping of bullying in school. The resolution passed unanimously in Utah's House and Senate.
Cowan drafted the first legislation in Utah specifically aimed at curbing bullying in school. Sponsored in the Utah house by Representative Ronda Menlove and in the Utah Senate by Senator Patrice M. Arent, the resolution against bullying, harassment and intimidation in schools was the first of its kind and called for a formal reporting system and cohesive school-to-school response in instances of school bullying. The resolution passed unanimously in Utah's House and Senate. At hearings testifying in favor of the resolution, Cowan told of his own years of being picked on in school, saying "lets send a message to Utah kids that we care about their safety and happiness at school."
Cowan is a speaker on the subject of bullying in school. Each year, Cowan speaks to at least thirty thousand youth about school bullying and its ties to school violence and suicide. In 2006, Cowan was featured as the keynote speaker at the National Youth Crime Prevention seminar.
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