President Matt Rupert introduced our guest speaker for the day, Charles Keller, Sr., President and Founder of the Colten Cowell Foundation, where they “firmly believe in the healing power of rerun television.”
When he bought a replica of the 1966 Batmobile, Keller decided that he wanted to be more than just “that guy who owns a Batmobile.” He decided to share his car and his love of superheroes to help families of terminally ill patients and, more recently, the children of fallen officers. “Our mission is to bring joy to the lives of families who have a gravely or terminally ill youngster.” Last year, the Colten Cowell Foundation, named for the first terminally ill child who was at least temporarily transformed by a ride in the Batmobile, officially achieved 501(c)(3) status, after six years of working informally to help bring a moment of joy into the lives of these children and their families.
The second part of the foundation’s mission is, “We also really enjoy providing financial support to the institutions that help these same families.” So far, 107 different charities have benefited from donations from the Colten Cowell Foundation. The primary charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Hope Kids, and the Phoenix Police Department can nominate a family for a crime fighting cave experience. By working with charity organizations to select crime fighting candidates, the foundation knows that the child has a supportive family who will make the most of the experience for the child and benefit themselves from a “day without hospital visits, needles and worry.”
As it turned out, though, giving rides in the Batmobile and giving back to charities was not enough. After one young superhero refused to ride in the iconic classic, he told Keller, “Why would I get in the Batmobile unless it’s going to take me to the Bat Cave?” After brooding on the comment, Keller rented a small space in South Phoenix and transformed it into a 1960’s crime fighting cave. “Now we have plans for the future to build a larger crime fighting cave on 5 acres of land that we own, that we hope will be there for many, many generations to come.”
The Experience
Kids receive an email from Mr. Wayne inviting them to come see Wayne Industries Research and Development Lab. On the set date, Mr. Wayne’s luxurious limo pulls up and takes the family to the Research and Development Lab, which the kids then find out is, indeed, a crime fighting cave, where the kids are surrounded by “some of the most sophisticated, elegant, intricate and expensive crime fighting equipment the world has ever known.”
Half-way through the tour, there is a signal from headquarters, the Bat Phone rings inside the Batmobile, the child picks up the phone and is told that it is time to go out and fight crime. They get in the car with dad or mom behind the wheel and go out for a spin in the Batmobile.
At the end of the evening, the kids then receive the “Spirit of Batman Award”: a keychain with a Hot Wheels version of the 1966 Batmobile, a key, and a promise that when they turn 16 and get their driver’s license, they can bring the key back to drive the Batmobile themselves. “We find that’s something the kids covet above all else.”
The child is then presented with an oversized check that they get to give to the charity that nominated them, so they get to experience the joy of giving. The parents also receive the opportunity to donate a check from the foundation to a charity of choice.
To date, 172 families, primarily from Arizona, have benefited from the Colten Cowell Foundation.
Visit for more information or to volunteer!