Posted on 3/04/123 by Mike Informer
By MOLLY ROBERTS
Staff Reporter | March 3, 2023 5:10 AM
KELLOGG — “I was driving from Coeur d’Alene to here, to
Kellogg this morning, and it was the most majestic,
beautiful view I’ve ever seen,” said motivational speaker
and former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) athlete Zach
Gowen spoke to a crowd of educators, students, parents, and
community members this past Wednesday about his story,
community building, and getting everyone up and moving in a
group activity. The event was held thanks to the efforts of
GearUp Coordinator Helen Kitchen, Kellogg High School and
the Youth Engagement Company, CoolSpeak. A free meal was
provided to attendees thanks to local businesses Grocery
Outlet, Barney's Harvest Food and Yoke's Fresh Market.
“Please give a round of applause to Ms. Helen for making
this happen. It feels great to be here and work with the
students and staff, and now to meet some of the community of
Kellogg,” Gowen said.
GearUp stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for
Undergraduate Programs and focuses on increasing college and
career readiness for underserved communities.
“GearUp works with underserved communities and allows
students to receive additional education through advisory,”
Kitchen said. “This can be scholarships to go to college,
whether a technical, or trade school, or community college.
Even if they aren’t interested in going to college, I
provide them with life skills, financial budgeting, and
whatever they need to be able to be successful after they
graduate from high school.”
Events like the one with Gowen are a part of what GearUp and
Kitchen bring to the school, as well as support and
resources to the students who need it most.
“I love doing these community events because for me this is
where the magic happens. Where parents and educators come
together and are working towards the greater good. Which is
raising these kids, turning these little monsters into
productive citizens of the world,” Gowen said.
Gowen is charismatic and personable, making him easy to
listen and talk to as he began to tell his story of losing
his leg to cancer at 8.
“It all started when I was 8, and I sprained my left knee
playing soccer. That’s normally not a big deal, but over the
course of the next eight months, my leg never healed,” Gowen
said. “At 8, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form
of muscular pediatric bone cancer.”
The doctors eventually explained to Gowen’s mother that it
could be life-threatening if they didn’t amputate his leg,
so the decision was made when he was 9.
“I would still argue that my mother made the right choice
because even though I lost one of my limbs at such a young
age, I’m here, 31 years later, sharing this moment with all
of you. And I think that’s miraculous and amazing.”
Gowen continued to explain the moment his life changed and
his dream began.
“We were too poor for me to have any interests or hobbies.
But we did have a television set, and there was a certain
man on TV that changed my life forever,” he said.
The man was the flamboyant 16-time world heavyweight
champion Ric Flair, which eventually set Gowen on the path
of becoming a wrestler, the only WWE wrestler with an
“I watched this event when Ric Flair won his first WWE
Heavyweight Championship, but more significantly than that,
when I watched that event, I didn’t feel the pain of cancer,
or not fitting in, or being different. All of that
disappeared when I tapped into the magic of professional
Gowen ended, as inspirational as he began, explaining that
there is a really big world out there ready to be
“I’m just trying to open the door in your mind of
possibilities of what could happen. There’s a really, really
big world out there. The last thing you want to do is tell
your big dreams to small-minded people.”
(Photo by MOLLY ROBERTS)