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Winter 2011 (Issue No. 50)


Shortly before Christmas, I received a brief email from Kelly Kowall asking if I could help her find a boat for her newly-formed non-profit. As you can imagine, that would not be an unusual request to receive. After all, I spend a lot of my time finding boats to present to the BYB community. Connecting boats in need of restoration with boaters looking for a project is the core of the BYB mission. However, it was the ending of Kelly's email that made this request unique: "I can promise that the boat will be well taken care of and have the very honorable duty of taking our military heroes and families of the fallen out on boating expeditions." I needed to learn more.

Kelly is the mother of Army Spc. Corey Kowall who was killed in Afghanistan on September 20, 2009 at the age of 20. Kelly told me that from the time he was 5 or 6 Corey always wanted to serve his country, and he never wavered from that desire. After returning to Florida from Corey's services in Tennessee where he grew up, Kelly spotted a "deck boat" for sale and an idea began to form. Kelly has not always been a boater, but having spent most of her life on the water she has boater friends and has always been a boat passenger. When Corey would come to visit, he would ask her to line up the boat trips. Boats and the water provided a connection between Kelly and Corey.

Kelly knew that if she went ahead and bought the boat, she'd use it to take out groups of veterans and family members who had lost a loved one. Partly, it would be her way of saying 'thank-you' for their service and their sacrifice, but, more than that, she understands that there's something magical about spending a day on the water that facilitates healing. Kelly told me, "I could feel Corey's fingertips on my back pushing me to buy the boat."

Last May, Kelly launched FAVE Boating Expeditions with a "fleet" consisting of one 1998 Typhoon Deck Boat. (F.A.V.E. = Families of the Fallen, Active Duty, Veterans, Enlisted). Soon, others started to get involved and volunteered both themselves as crew, and sometimes their own boats and kayaks as additions to the fleet. Funded by Kelly, FAVE has had one boating trip a month since their start, and she is adamant about how these trips should go. There must be sufficient crew aboard to handle everything, not because her guests are incapable of helping out. Rather, "...this is their day of honor, and we want to wait on them."

A typical trip involves heading out into Tampa Bay from Apollo Beach and anchoring at "the island." A catered lunch is supplied. Plans may include swimming off the boat, kayaking, a walk on the beach, or perhaps some fishing. Things may be a little awkward at first. After all, these folks don't necessarily know each other, but Kelly describes seeing her passengers' bodies relaxing, their tension melting away. They start realizing that they have a lot in common. The boat becomes a safe place for them to discuss what they've been experiencing. They open up. The magic of a day on the water -- the healing -- is happening right there on the deck boat.

One former FAVE passenger reached out to me with an unsolicited email in which she talked candidly of the loss of her own son, Jacob. She also said, "Kelly rescued me." Her email ended with "Please help support her efforts... This little lady has a tremendous heart."

Kelly also put me in touch with other past FAVE passengers, one of whom is an active duty Army staff sergeant who has served two deployments in Iraq and two deployments in Afghanistan -- so far. His FAVE experience consisted of a kayaking trip with another soldier. First, Kelly had to teach him how to kayak. He told me: "She treated you like you were her own. She made you feel like she was your mom." I took the opportunity to tell this young man that as a citizen of this country I wanted to thank him for his service. In the most respectful way imaginable, and without a second of hesitation, he responded, "I'm proud to be doing what I'm doing, sir." 





My initial interactions with Kelly were about addressing the need for a bigger & better boat for her organization. The best way for me to do that is by spreading the word of her efforts to all of you. So, if there are any members of the BYB community out there with a safe craft appropriate for this purpose that you are interested in donating to this cause, please contact Kelly directly. As we talked more, however, it also became clear that boaters could also help Kelly's efforts by volunteering their own boats, time, and crew to take out veterans and Gold Star family members wherever they may be. Kelly said, "If I have the boats and boating people, I can find the passengers." So, you don't have to be in Florida to help out, but I assure you that Kelly will insist that you adhere to her high standards in providing these folks their day of honor on the water.

For more information about FAVE and their mission, or to see some expedition photos, please check out www.favebe.com. You can also find contact details on the website. According to Kelly, FAVE is incorporated as a non-profit in the state of Florida and has submitted to the IRS all of the paperwork required to become a sanctioned 501c3 organization. At this time, they are still waiting for the IRS notification of acceptance.

                            (Story by David Irving, BYB Staff Writer)

*** *** ***

You can help spread the word of Kelly's efforts by clicking the Facebook "Like" button below and sharing this with your Friends:

UPDATE 04/06/2011:  501(c)(19) STATUS GRANTED

David, I just wanted to let you know that on March 14th FAVE Boating Expeditions was sanctioned as a 501 (c) (19).

Although we originally applied for a 501 (c) (3) the IRS felt that we were better suited for a (19) as it is a classification that is solely for organizations that work with the military and their families. This meant a lot more paperwork to get to the IRS and more hoops to jump though because of the requirements, but we felt that in the long run it would be better for us to have the (19) classification over the (3).

Also generally donations to 501 (c) (19) organization are not tax deductible but there are a few exceptions so that meant even more hoops and paperwork BUT in the end it was all worth it because the IRS has ruled that we ARE an exception. We are very excited that we have been sanctioned a 501 (c) 19 as it is so much harder to obtain than the 501 (c) (3).


Kelly Kowall (Proud Gold Star Mother of Spc. Corey Kowall & Founder of FAVE Boating Expeditions)


For more information on FAVE Boating Expeditions visit our website and check out the video!


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