Michael Bowler has devoted his life to children. Born with hearing loss, he has been an exemplary role model and mentor to his Little Brothers in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program of Catholic Big Brothers and an inspiration to his fellow volunteers.
During his 15 years of service, Bowler has proven to be an outstanding friend and role model to his four Little Brothers. While most Big Brothers are matched to one child, Bowler sees the overwhelming need of children, particularly deaf and hard-of-hearing children, and has opened his heart to four boys. After being matched for three years with his first Little Brother, he readily agreed to take on a second child. Once the first child graduated from the program, Bowler took on a third Little Brother. Just recently, Bowler was matched with his fourth Little Brother.
Through Bowler's caring and guidance, all of his Little Brothers are leading quality lives. Hard of hearing himself, Bowler has been an example to the boys of how to flourish in the face of adversity. He became a Big Brother, in part, because of the loneliness he faced growing up as a hard-of-hearing child. His childhood experience as "the only one" is not unusual for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, who often have a pessimistic outlook for their future. Through his volunteer work, Bowler has prevented these hard-of-hearing boys from experiencing the terrible loneliness he endured while providing all the benefits children normally receive from having a Big Brother.
His value as a mentor goes far beyond the personal relationships he has developed with his Little Brothers and benefits society as well. Studies have shown that mentored youth are less likely to engage in violence or use drugs and alcohol and are more likely to stay in school. It typically costs a sponsoring organization approximately $1,000 to make and monitor a match, while an incarcerated youth costs society an estimated $30,000 per year.
In addition to his extraordinary service to Catholic Big Brothers, Bowler is active in many other community organizations. His involvement with the Los Angeles Archdiocese's Detention Ministry has spanned nearly 15 years. He counsels juvenile offenders three days a week at one detention ministry and twice a month at another. Through the years, he has counseled more than 1,500 youth in detention. Bowler also volunteers four days each week teaching a weight-training class at the Westchester YMCA. The students at Hawthorne High School, where he teaches special education, also benefit from his involvement in many extracurricular activities, such as sponsoring a skateboarding club and a weightlifting club. If there is a spare moment, it seems that Bowler is dedicating it to a child.
Bowler is a spokesman for mentoring. He speaks regularly on the behalf of Catholic Big Brothers, making himself available for media and giving special presentations for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program. He also participates enthusiastically in Catholic Big Brothers' annual "Bowl for Kids' Sake" fund raiser and supports many of the agency's activities.
Other organizations have honored Bowler with many volunteer awards. In 1998, Bowler was named Volunteer of the Year by National Philanthropy Day in Los Angeles and also honored as Outstanding Volunteer by the Volunteer Center of Los Angeles. In 1989, the County of Los Angeles named him Probation Volunteer of the Year. That same year, he also received Los Angeles County's Health and Human Services Award. He has also been honored as Catholic Volunteer of the Year at Sylmar Juvenile Hall for his work with the detention ministry.