Despite her diminutive frame Katie Bowling packs a positive punch for the community.
The tireless efforts by the 25-year-old to give back to Penticton are why she was chosen as this week’s Top 40 Under 40 nominee.
“I have received so much help in my life I want to give back as much as I can,” said Bowling.
Bowling was born with spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder causing some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed.
Although it prevents people from doing many things, Bowling sees it as just that many more hurdles she can leap over. It is a juggling act of her health and living her life as normal as it can be.
“I want to be known in the community as the person that I am, not my challenges,” said Bowling. “My challenges are a part of who I am, though, and have made me who I am.”
The young community leader was an active member of the Girl Guides of Canada for 14 years, City of Penticton volunteer for 13 years, Special Olympics volunteer coach, Dragonfly Pond Family Society volunteer, Okanagan Similkameen child development centre board director, 2012 volunteer team captain for Flying Dragons dragon boat team for special needs, Agur Lake Camp Society ambassador, United Way of the South Okanagan Similkameen campaign ambassador and 2011 ICBC sponsored representative.
That is the short list of things Bowling has done.
Bowling was honoured by the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Society. The award is given to people aged 14 – 24 after completing a programme of activities. It consists of four sections and with assistance from adult leaders, participants set objectives in volunteering, physical activity, skills and expedition or exploration.
“It was an opportunity to be the best I can be and offered a challenge to me personally to complete everything,” said Bowling.
It meant three years working on completing all the tasks. With her physical disability the hours she was to stay active was overwhelming. She said two of the levels she chose to do in the expedition category were exploration.
Bowling finished those by completing a research project at the Nk’Mip Desert Centre.
Working her way through the Duke of Edinburgh components Bowling ended up doing a week of camping in Powell River on a canoe trip for the other part of the exploration category. This included a 2.5-kilometre portage through an Easter Seal leadership training camp.
Adult able-bodied leaders helped in the portage and Bowling completed it with the use of her crutches. But not without carrying her own weight.
“I carried the lifejackets because I felt I needed to do something. At one point one of the other campers was struggling carrying the food pack so I switched with him. There was a small hill in front of us so I carried it up that. I have back issues so that is as far as I could do it, but I just wanted to do it,” said Bowling.
It’s Bowling in a nutshell.
“If there is a challenge in front of me I want to beat it,” she said.
If there is one area of service Bowling has a passion for it’s helping children.
She has furthered her education by taking the High Five principles of healthy child development training, and Okanagan College course in volunteer co-ordination, behaviour management, understanding behaviour challenges and event planning basics.
All of which have come into practical use whether she is assisting with summer camps or coaching kids in basketball and swimming.
Bowling leans on her experience as a KISU swimmer and a B.C. Winter Games medalist in swimming to interact with children.
“I’m always learning from the kids. I feel like I’m helping them but they are also helping me and that is a big part of Special Olympics for me and coaching swimming. I have something to offer them in coaching and they always have something to offer me. I feel happy, I feel like I have done something and made a difference,” said Bowling.
“It’s so rewarding just to see them succeed at something that you helped them get there or they helped you realize something you didn’t know about yourself.”
Bowling lists one of her greatest accomplishments as being part of the 2012 Rick Hansen Relay Community Planning Team and was chosen as a medal bearer for being a community difference maker.
“That was definitely a bucket list thing to be a part of his journey. I got to wheel the medal through the farmer’s market,” said Bowling.
“It was empowering to be part of something so huge. To know that you are one in 7,000 was something special.”
Bowling credits her grandmother Mary Bowling as her mentor. Although she passed away from lung cancer in 2010, Katie says the spirit of her “nana” lives on within her.
“She just always knew what to say when you needed someone to talk to. She was a very giving person and I think I got a lot of that from her. We had so much in common like music, books and that kind of stuff. She will always be my mentor,” said Bowling.
The youngest Top 40 Under 40 nominee so far said she wants to thank everyone that she has interacted with in her life for helping her strive to be a better person.
“Everyone has made a difference in my life. They talked to me, motivated me and inspired me.”
Penticton Top 40 under 40 is presented by the Prospera Credit Union in partnership with the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and JCI Penticton, with support from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation BC-Yukon.
Nominations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Top 40 Nomination.’ Please include nominees contact info and a brief reason for nomination.