Carly Stowell Foundation


Carly's Story

Do What You Love, Love What You Do


Nearly-fifteen-year-old Carly Stowell personified the expression, “Do what you love; love what you do.” A gifted athlete, musician, and student, Carly died suddenly, April 12, 2007, of a heart arrhythmia while attending a national level basketball tournament in North Carolina. Carly’s death stunned both the girls’ basketball community and the thousands of people who knew and admired her. It’s the rare teenage girl who leaves a legacy to others, but Carly was rare, and she has left a legacy of character and spirit to guide the work of the Carly Stowell Foundation to benefit the youth of South King County.

When remembering Carly, her mother, Elena grinned and described her as “hungry.” On every level, Carly was hungry. Whether attacking the rim, screaming a sax solo, or digging into a pile of mouth-burning French fries, Carly’s hunger to impact her world was undeniable. Passionate and persistent, she channeled relentless energy into whatever she pursued. Carly’s unusual version of balance was achieved by driving hard in everything. Carly’s piano teacher would schedule her to perform last at recitals, not just because Carly’s exceptional talent earned her that distinguished placement, but because Dee Anderson knew that Carly would likely be rushing in from a basketball tournament. Dee said, “I lost track of the number of recitals Carly gave in her basketball uniform.”

As the only freshman in her senior high jazz band and one of only two starting freshmen on her high school basketball team, Carly had to commit to days that began with a 6:30 AM Jazz Band rehearsal, included a full day of school, homework, and often two full basketball practices, which found her returning home after 10:00 PM. When Elena thinks of those days, she is reminded of Carly’s poise. In the driving pace required to excel Carly demonstrated discipline, persistence and appreciation to those who supported her demanding schedule. Elena noted that few adolescents or adults have the kind of self-discipline Carly summoned on a daily basis. “Carly would get up at 8:00 AM on a snowy Saturday morning to meet her strength trainer,” Elena recalled. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Given Carly’s competitive nature, one might envision a young woman bound to be the only winner. But “Basketball and jazz are collaborative,” said Carly’s dad, Chuck. You can’t win alone. Carly understood what it meant to be part of a team. In both basketball and jazz, the participants are able to collaborate at the artistic level only if they work as one. Carly’s individual contribution to her high school jazz band was exceptional; she was only the second freshman ever to play with that elite group. While a featured soloist in the band, her ability to listen to her band mates and together with them interpret and creatively express music was the contribution that helped the band recently earn the honor of “Outstanding Festival Band” at the Gene Harris Jazz Festival at Boise State University. Unselfish with her gifts, Carly tutored her friend Kendall in the saxophone so that Kendall, who had had no formal sax lessons, could join Carly in the school band. A true team leader, Carly set the bar high for herself and others in music, ball and life.

Big-sister Carly, precocious and independent from the start, made time for her two brothers and beloved extended family. Known by her “Unkie Al” as fearless, Carly is remembered as a risk-taker. Alan told the story of Carly zipping down the steep slopes of Heavenly Ski Resort after only a couple of quick and abridged snowboarding lessons from her uncle. Alan also liked to remind his family of Carly’s singing debut at age 8, as she delighted the guests at his and Carrie’s wedding, singing “L-O-V-E.” A budding film-maker, Carly regularly recruited her brothers, Eason and Carson, to perform in her school project videos. Her brothers were well too-aware of their sister’s tendency to play “cruise director” at family campouts at their grandparents’ property in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. At quieter moments, Carly could be found beside her “Nana,” learning how to paint with watercolors, which she then shared with others.

Carly’s legacy is the example of a young woman who balanced a drive to excel with humility and grace. Carly’s plethora of friends is a testimony to her ability to connect with others even while distinguishing herself. The Carly Stowell Foundation will honor Carly’s example through initiatives that give young people opportunities similar to what Carly had—to make music, to play basketball, to “love what you do.”