Less than 24 hours after the passing of her oldest child, LeDania Carmichael attended the first-ever presentation of scholarships bearing her son’s name.
A broken-hearted Carmichael assisted in handing out three $2,000 BlakeStrong scholarships to deserving senior track and field athletes at Franklin Central High School’s spring sports banquet.
The scholarships honor the legacy and fighting spirit of Blake Bowell, a 2010 Franklin Central graduate who lost a four-year battle against brain cancer at the age of 25.
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Bowell, who participated in football and track for the Flashes, passed away at 11:40 p.m. June 5 in hospice care at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He was surrounded by family members, friends and his 11-year-old West Highland Terrier, Sophie.
Asked why she chose to attend, Carmichael, her eyes welling with tears, said, “Because Blake would have wanted us to be there. (Scholarship) meant a ton to him, and he was part of all of that.”
Carmichael is the assistant athletics director at Greenwood Christian Academy. Her husband, Dan Carmichael, has been GCA’s athletics director since the start of the 2011-12 school year.
Beginning next spring, a BlakeStrong scholarship in the range of $1,000 to $2,000 will be presented annually to a deserving Greenwood Christian senior student-athlete.
Eligibility rules for both scholarships are basically the same with, one noticeable difference.
At Greenwood Christian Academy, a senior student-athlete must fill out an application and write an essay approximately 500 words long about an obstacle he or she has overcome.
The same applies at Franklin Central. However, only track athletes are eligible there.
Bowell attended Franklin Central at a time when LeDania was that school’s assistant athletics director.
A perfectionist in all aspects of life from a young age, Bowell ranked in the top 20 in a class of approximately 550 students and was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy. He was honorably discharged from the military in the spring of 2011 due to a hernia that wouldn’t heal.
Bowell transferred to Murray State University in Kentucky, where his paternal grandfather had graduated from years earlier.
Having seamlessly overcome the disappointment of one medical obstacle, Bowell soon was faced with another.
In July 2013 he unexpectedly suffered four seizures while with cousins in northern Indiana. An MRI performed at a hospital in LaPorte revealed Bowell had brain cancer. A few days later he had surgery to remove a tumor at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, which left him cancer-free for 13 months.
Bowell underwent surgery for a second time after the cancer reappeared.
In February, about 200 people attended a ceremony planned in Bowell’s honor at Southland Community Church in Greenwood. It was on this night he spoke words neither Dan nor LeDania Carmichael will forget:
“I’m standing with Blake and another gentleman,” Dan said. “I said, ‘You doing all right?,’ and Blake says, ‘I’m great. What’s the worst that could happen, that I die and go to heaven?’
“I think where he got his attitude and courage is from his mother. She is that special of a woman.”
A legacy of courage
Bowell’s story is shared on Facebook. It is entitled “BlakeStrong Bowell”, and tells of a young man in the prime who without a hint of warning finds himself in the fight of his life.
He displayed a positive attitude and unwavering faith no matter how much pain or discomfort he was in. Bowell encouraged others while battling through four surgeries and numerous treatment cycles.
The fact he is now honored by scholarships at two high schools speaks volumes.
Printed on the second page of the program from Bowell’s memorial service on June 9 is the Bible verse 2 Timothy 4:7:
I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
“I think it says a lot about his drive. His determination and desire to overcome,” LeDania said. “Blake’s legacy is his willingness to fight and his relationship with Christ. He knew where he was going.”