Tuesday, November 6, 2007
7 News Features: In Wesley's Honor
He's the newest member of the Seven News team: Reed Cowan, the anchor of our Saturday morning newscast. For Reed, South Florida represents a new beginning after the devastating loss of his 4-year-old son a year and a half ago. Just how a parent survives the death of a child is incomprehensible, but Reed says you do it by turning pain into purpose. In his case, doing good in Wesley's Honor. Robbin Simmons brings us their story.
WSVN -- Reed Cowan: "I always knew this child was coming. I knew I would have a son, and I got him."
Wesley Cowan pushed his way into life during the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. That's where Reed Cowan worked when he became a father. This baby was special.
Reed Cowan: "For a long time we didn't know if we would have a child because my ex-wife and I had experienced miscarriages, and so, when we found out that she was pregnant, and that she was going to carry him to term, it was a miracle."
Reed Cowan: "So, when we got him in our arms it was absolutely magic."
Curly blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and a love for dancing. In four years, Wesley Cowan was often on TV with his dad, charming everyone.
Reed Cowan: "He wanted to go to Disneyland. He saw Santa Claus for the first time there in the light parade."
Wesley Cowan: "Hi, Santa!"
Reed Cowan: "That was the last holiday I would ever have with my son."
Just four months later, just hours after flying a kite in the park with his dad, Wesley Cowan was gone.
Reed Cowan: "He was playing on his swing set in his mother's backyard. It has a ladder here and a ladder here and a horizontal set of monkey bars and trapeze unit that are suspended from the horizontal monkey bars. So he was going across those monkey bars and, as he did so, he fell into the corner of the trapeze bar, and he was gone in an instant. My child died of a hanging from a swing set in a backyard, the most freak accident you could ever imagine."
Reed Cowan: "His mother called me, and she was hysterical. 'You've got to get here now, Wesley's not breathing.'"
Reed Cowan: "When I ran around the corner into the backyard, and saw the policemen and the firefighters and the EMTs. I remember picking up his feet, and I remember saying to him, 'You've got to get back in your body. You've got to come back because I need you.'"
Reed Cowan: "They did CPR all the way to the hospital in the ambulance. They took us into a room, and they said, 'We're really sorry, but we've done everything we can."
Reed Cowan: "I truly thought at that moment that I would die. I looked to my left, and this gourney came by, and underneath the sheet was the form of my son, and I lost it."
In the days that followed, those close to Reed wondered if he would survive Wesley's death.
Reed Cowan: "I had days when I thought, 'If it hurts like this tomorrow, I'm not going to do tomorrow.'"
Weeks later, with seemingly no progress in recovery, a life-long friend confronted Reed.
Reed Cowan: "He said to me, 'We can turn this negative into a positive. We can do something for other people in Wesley's name. Are you aware that children Wesley's age in Africa are dying every day. Children Wesley's age, when they die, are buried alone because their entire family is wiped out."
Reed Cowan: "It was at that moment that I got angry, I got mad. Something came alive in me. I thought, my child didn't get a legacy. He didn't even get to get that scholarship letter. He didn't even get to score that winning touchdown, but he's going to have a legacy. If I have anything to do with the rest of my days, this little boy will have a legacy, and that legacy will be in Africa."
With that, Reed realized he could do something positive in the midst of such loss. That day he founded an organization named for his son The Wesley Smiles Coalition.
Reed Cowan: "People came forward from all over the world wanting to participate in the Wesley Smiles Coalition, sometimes a dollar, sometimes thousands of dollars."
Reed Cowan: "Just a few days after I interviewed here at Channel Seven News, I was on a plane to Kenya."
Reed Cowan: "When we got there, it was Easter Sunday. These children were not technically supposed to be in school, but school is there, way out of all of it, and they know it, and these children that we met on the first day had walked five miles to school to study for their exams."
Reed Cowan: "We walked into that classroom, and the children, one at a time, stood to greet us, and then they sang to us. I thought this is the mission of my life, I will duplicate what I see here today on this Easter Sunday. School after school, all over Africa, for the rest of my life."
Two days later, on the one year anniversary of the tragedy that took Wesley Cowan's life, Reed attended the dedication of the Wesley Cowan school in Kenya.
Reed Cowan: "I want all of you to know you are the future of Kenya, that when you close your eyes, and you think a thought and you dream a dream, you can create the world in which you will walk."
Reed Cowan: "Today there are a thousand children in two Wesley Cowan schools in Kenya. They're in school, they're not in graves, they're not in orphanages, they're not working the streets. They're in school today because of my son."
Reed Cowan: "When they walk through the doors they see my son's name: Wesley Cowan, and they go to school to have a future and have life. There's my answer to 'Why, God? Why?' That's my answer."
Reed Cowan: "As a dad you're supposed to fix things, and the greatest hurt of my life was that I couldn't bring my son back. But, in this experience, I feel like where I couldn't save my own child, I've been able to have a little part in saving other children."
Visit: The Wesley Smiles Coalition