Bella Bowman only spent eight years on this Earth, but her impact will be felt for many years to come. Her mother, Kim, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kim and her husband, Trey, got the idea of forming a foundation shortly after Bella was diagnosed with brain cancer. “The outpouring of support and help for us was quite overwhelming, in a good way,” Kim says. “We knew that it was only our duty to give back to the community and to help families who were battling the same thing we were.”
Bella passed away in December 2011 because of a rare side effect from her treatment. Soon after, Kim and Trey managed to channel their grief into getting the Bella Bowman Foundation up and running, with a mission of creating and supporting research initiatives for pediatric brain cancer, funding educational opportunities and—closest to the Bowmans’ hearts—offering comfort care to children with cancer.
“There is nothing you can ever imagine that is like how it feels to lose a child,” Kim says. “We kept talking about her and sharing her story, and it made us feel like she was still with us.”
Since the foundation’s launch, Kim has thrown herself into its day-to-day operations, from planning events and giving speeches to handling accounting duties and coordinating donations. She regularly delivers care bags to families at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, and has committed to providing guidance, gifts and resources to parents of young patients.
The Bowmans also hope to help doctors and scientists find less harmful treatments for pediatric brain cancer. To that end, the foundation recently awarded a $22,000 seed grant to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center to support research into how radiation causes necrosis, the side effect that took Bella’s life.
Earlier this year, the foundation established a new partnership with Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, which has renamed its children’s program after Bella. Together with that organization, Kim and her team have started a tutoring program and a support group for children with cancer and their families.
“Our major long-term goal is to build Bella’s House, a house exclusively for pediatric hospice,” Kim says. “It will be a place where families can go and be together and still feel at home. ”
For more information, see bellabowman.org.
What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
I love making children smile and helping families see that they can get through this. I like to motivate them and also challenge them to continue on, no matter what the circumstances or outcome may be.
How is your cause making a difference?
I feel like it is making families see that they were given this life because they were strong enough to live it. Even though we lost our battle and lost our child, we can go on and live our lives to the fullest.
How would you like to inspire others?
I hope to inspire others by showing them that one person can make a difference. Pay it forward.
Is there a big event for your cause?
Bella’s Ball is held every year in March. It includes a silent and live auction with live music, food and entertainment. This year, we raised more than our goal and had close to 600 people attend.