“That was crazy, man,” said the Rice Village resident, who topped Watt and three other finalists in one of 11 categories for her work with The Periwinkle Foundation.
“I try to be humble about it,” said Cowling. “I don’t know; he needs to win the Super Bowl, man.”
The awards are handed out by Volunteer Houston, located near Westbury, which for 41 years has served the city by connecting volunteers to a broad spectrum of diverse nonprofit organizations.
“Nonprofit organizations all around Houston and its vicinity rely on Volunteer Houston to acquire over 50,000 volunteers per year,” said Eileen Kelly, the group’s Volunteers In Service to America leader.
Watt’s wattage simply wasn’t enough to outshine Cowling, 21, a Spanish major at the University of Houston.
Periwinkle’s signature program is Camp Periwinkle, a week-long summer camp that Cowling attended twice as a patient.
Her parents, James Cowling and his wife, Teresa Smith, had thought something seemed wrong with their daughter when she was playing soccer.
“They said my left arm curled up,” said Cowling.
“I’m very fortunate, living just a mile from the world’s No. 1 medical center,” she said.
“They took me to Texas Children’s Hospital to see a neurologist. They gave me an MRI and I was diagnosed the next day with a brain tumor. I was a kid, so I wasn’t as scared as I should have been. I knew it wasn’t good. I was happy to not have to go to school. But I saw that my parents were really devastated.”
Most of the tumor was removed in surgery, but because it was so close to her brain, the doctors left some, and treated the remainder with radiation, said Cowling.
Attending Camp Periwinkle lifted her spirits tremendously, she said.
“They got it,” explained Cowling. “It was a blast, like no other camp I’d ever been to. Everything was over the top. Every single kid had the best time ever.”
Next week, Cowling will return to Camp Periwinkle for her third year as an adult counselor. The week-long getaway entertains children with cancer as well as their siblings.
“Each camper who’s fighting cancer is allowed to bring a sibling because it’s the whole family that is affected by it,” said Cowling.
“The goal of Camp Periwinkle is to provide a safe, emotionally healing and fantastic adventure that gives every camper the opportunity to grow in independence and self-esteem and leave Camp Periwinkle a stronger survivor,” said Periwinkle executive director Doug Suggitt.
Cowling has actively volunteered for more than 10 years with Periwinkle, which “develops and provides programs that positively change the lives of children, young adults and families who are challenged by cancer and other life threatening illnesses,” said Suggitt.
Cowling said her favorite Periwinkle activity is the group’s Arts in Medicine Program at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, which attracts professional artists and writers who encourage self-expression, promote empowerment and develop coping skills for patients and their families.
Periwinkle’s Arts and Creative Writing Program culminates each year in Making A Mark, an exhibition of art and creative writing by children touched by cancer and blood disorders at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, said Cowling.
“The kids’ arts program, it’s the best, man. They are so creative.”
Kelly said that Cowling and 10 other honorees were feted at an awards luncheon May 13 in Union Station at Minute Maid Park.
Cowling won the Basic Needs category, in which Watt was nominated for five years’ service withChildren’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
From a field of 17 nominees, Cowling and Watt were finalists, along with Patty Milspaugh of AIDS Foundation Houston, Kip Thomson of SIRE Therapeutic Horsemanship and the trio of Marty Chapman, Kimberly Robinson and Lona Wong of Bayou City Blessings in a Backpack.