Carey’s Corner: Calling All Superheroes

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Posted By on April 2, 2020

The Colten Cowell Foundation offers compassion and fun to families facing life challenges

The night I went to visit the Crime Fighting Cave in Phoenix, I had no idea what to expect. My friend Bruce St. James, formerly a host on KTAR, had been telling me about it for some time, and I promised I would check it out. One of my mottoes in life is if you say you are going to show up, you show up. So, off I went.

I drove up to a nondescript warehouse complex, wondering if I was in the right place. Then I spotted a group of children waiting out front. Not long after that, the show would begin.

A parade of cars pulled up, including a black limo. Inside was a family whose son has Down Syndrome. He was the star superhero of the day, nominated by the charity Sharing Down Syndrome.

“There’s a script, there’s a set, and basically the idea is that various children’s charities nominate kids with significant life challenges,” St. James explained. “The kids come, and for one night, they are the star of the show.”

He has been volunteering for about five years and lending his considerable talent as a host. When the kids walk into the front room, St. James sets the stage. From there, they weave through the Batman-inspired Cave with surprises, gadgets, cool cars, a helicopter, memorabilia and lots of fun along the way.

Who Is Bruce Wayne?

Much like the alter ego of Batman, the man behind this incredible effort is a wealthy American industrialist. Charles Keller is a businessman, philanthropist and classic car collector. After purchasing a Batmobile on Craigslist in 2009, he found himself inspired to share.

Keller met 3-year-old Colten Cowell, who was fighting a fatal form of cancer. In the final weeks of Colten’s life, Keller made sure he was able to take a ride in the Batmobile.

From there, the Colten Cowell Foundation was born. It aims to change people’s perspective on giving.

“I feel like we are making a difference,” Keller said. “We are in a very trying time right now. What all of us are experiencing — not being able to get good answers — the families we deal with have to face for years and years. The principal thing that we try to espouse is compassion for our fellow human beings.”

Keller has a hands-on approach to philanthropy, which goes way beyond writing checks. And he has big intentions for the future. Before the end of 2020, he plans to expand out of the warehouse. The Colten Cowell Foundation will move to a 5-acre campus, where they will build a 25,000-square-foot mansion with a Crime Fighting Cave.

“Building the new cave,” Keller said, “has nothing to do with comic book characters. It is about compassion.”

He plans to call it The Monument to Compassion.

“We spend a great deal of time building monuments to ourselves,” Keller said. “This is a monument to a great idea. Known across the country, and possibly even around the world.”

Closing the Cave Doors

Like so many charities, the Colten Cowell Foundation is trying to adjust to fallout from the COVID-19 crisis. For now, they’ve had to close the cave doors as they plan for the next steps.

On Arizona Gives Day, they hope to broadcast 12 straight hours from the Cave with 12 different stories.

They’ve come too far to slow down now (does the Batmobile even have brakes?).

To date, the Colten Cowell Foundation has worked with 324 children’s charities and celebrated more than 500 superheroes. They’ve also given away $1.3 million.

For radio host Bruce St. James, all of this has provided a great deal of perspective in a time of considerable uncertainty. “Giving my time, giving of myself, has bettered my life,” St. James said. “It fundamentally changed some of the trajectories of my life. Being involved in a charity like this. Finding out just how amazing you can feel when you give back to others.”

The final moments I spent with St. James at the Cave involved seeing the little superhero and his dad driving around in the Batmobile. It was quite a sight.

Several impressive superpowers were on display that night, not the least of which is compassion.

To learn more about the Colten Cowell Foundation, go to coltencowellfoundation.org.

To see more of Carey’s reporting, visit inspiredmedia360tv.com.

Carey Pena

About Carey Pena

Carey Peña is an Emmy award winning journalist who majored in broadcast journalism at Arizona State University.