Ten months after her father, Ben, died in a paragliding accident on the Great Ocean Road during a family holiday, Alex Cowen, then 12, was sitting on a bus with her sports team, thinking about how lucky she was, the Brisbane Times reports.
She, her twin sister Charley, their elder brother Mitch and mum, Lahra Carey, had lived through shocking upheaval – and had to do it in the public eye, as Ben Cowen, co-founder of the Anaconda chain and son of the former governor-general Sir Zelman, was well known. Yet Alex realised she was still fortunate to have the comfort of familiar friends doing familiar activities she loved.
As she sat among her teammates feeling “the camaraderie, so included and happy”, a question arose. What about all those kids whose childhoods had been similarly disrupted, but for whom financial loss also took away their chance to do things that made them feel “normal”.
Alex went home to her sister, piano-lover and women’s footy player Charley, and hatched a plan.
Somehow, they would start their own organisation to offer “micro-grants” (of up to $500) to other kids who had experienced trauma, to help them pay for footy boots and club fees, or music lessons, or a birthday party they might otherwise no longer have.
Charley says huge enthusiasm for the project by their community-minded peers (at their own school and others) has been helped their “crazy idea” become reality.
Two years and an outpouring of love from any organisation with whom they have shared their plan later, the Cowen twins’ registered charity, Parachute, is about to open its doors.
Alex (left) and Charley Cowen, with their dog Billy, will help other kids going through adversity to keep doing “normal” things.CREDIT:JOE ARMAO