Kenilworth resident Fitz Bowen was a captain of the New Trier High School JV lacrosse team his sophomore year, so he was stunned when he was cut from the varsity team as a junior.
“I needed to find something that would get me out of myself, because when you don’t make a sports team that you’re expecting to make, you’re mad at yourself,” Bowen said. “The other game I play is golf and that’s a game of ups and downs as well, so I couldn’t always count on that. I need something I could find constant joy in.”
Bowen found that joy volunteering for Special Olympics. He’d done some work with the organization before and decided to pursue it further by volunteering to coach the high school’s special needs students in soccer and track every Tuesday and some Wednesdays.
Volunteering; a Stress Reliever
He said the work helped him relieve stress from dealing with his heavy class load and friends who had made the lacrosse team, who seemed to be constantly reminding him that he was missing out.
“It was just that one thing that kept me going through the week,” Bowen said. “It made me so happy. I could go there and forget about everything I had to do. I could watch them achieve their goals, which was awesome.”
After taking so much pleasure in his work with Special Olympics, Bowen decided he wanted to do more for the organization and its sponsor, Kay Pothast.
“I needed to find a way to give back to Ms. Pothast because she really brought me back to life from just being upset,” Bowen said.
He found that opportunity in the American Junior Golf Association’s online fundraising system.
Raising Funds for Team, Scholarships
Friends and neighbors agreed to donate money for every birdie Bowen made during the summer season, and he raised a total of $2,300. Half of the funds went to New Trier High School’s Special Olympics team, and the rest will help sponsor scholarships to allow qualifying student golfers to compete in national tournaments they otherwise couldn’t afford to attend.
While the fundraising was tied to his performance on the green, Bowen said working with Special Olympics put his whole athletic career into perspective.
“Golf is an individual sport, so when you’re not playing well there’s no one to blame but yourself,” Bowen said. “I think it’s especially important for people playing individual sports to get out of themselves. I think it made me feel fortunate to be playing golf, and that golf was just a game and didn’t decide my future.”
Along with golfing, Bowen continued to volunteer during the summer, visiting Our Place of New Trier Township in Wilmette on Saturdays to spend time dancing, playing board games and eating pizza with teens and adults with developmental disabilities. When his senior year started, he returned to Special Olympics to coach basketball.
“High school’s a pretty stressful place, especially New Trier,” Bowen said. “I knew how happy it made me my junior year, and people always want to go back to places that make them happy.”
After he graduates, Bowen said he would love to see other students will follow in his footsteps and find a cause to dedicate themselves to.
“My hope is that people at New Trier continue to do things pretty similar to what I did, just marrying their passions and raising money for something that you feel is important,” Bowen said.