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Taylorsville Journal

Congressman, mayor praise Bennion Elementary third grader Tanner Cowley for problem-solving

Oct 01, 2019 10:34AM ● By Carl Fauver

Master fundraiser Tanner Cowley, 9, poses with the Taylorsville City Council and Mayor. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected] 

“I think Tanner’s just amazing,” Mayor Kristie Overson said. “I hope he will be sitting in my (mayor’s) chair one day.”

“Instead of just complaining about a problem, Tanner figured out a way to solve it,” City Manager John Taylor said. “And he did the hard work to get it done.” 

“I just want everyone to know, Tanner and his parents live in my city council district,” a proud Council Vice Chair Meredith Harker said.

The city officials’ high praise was for 9-year-old Bennion Elementary School third grader Tanner Cowley, who cost city taxpayers more than $700 in a way even the most fiscally conservative are likely to accept with a smile.

“When I heard about Tanner’s plan to hold a fundraiser, I was so impressed I promised him the city would match whatever he raised,” Overson said. “I had no idea it would be this much. But we’ll keep our pledge.”

It seems Tanner not only knows how to solve problems; he’s also pretty good at peddling ice cream floats. 

At a recent city council meeting — barely seeing over the top of the public comment podium — Tanner bent the microphone way down to tell council members exactly how he wants the $724.12 he raised to be spent.

Or, actually, $1,448.24, with the city’s match. No wait, make that $1648.24 after Mountain America Credit Union chipped in an additional $200.

“This summer, I went to Bennion Park (5620 South 3200 West) to play, but I couldn’t because the playground equipment was too hot,” Tanner read from his prepared statement. “I decided to raise money to plant some (shade) trees at the park. I sold 134 root beer floats. Many people came by and just put money in my jar.”

Then Tanner presented the council with a check, several hundred dollars more than what the mayor had envisioned.

Tanner said city officials promised he can have a say in what types of shade trees will be planted. And don’t think for a minute the 9-year-old is without an opinion.

“I have a giant elm tree at my house that covers almost our entire house,” he said. “It is right at the corner to our house. My parents taught me what type it is. They also said elm trees grow fast. That’s the kind of trees I want planted at the park.”

Tanner sold his $2.50 floats, 134 of them, in under three hours. He said those were his idea too.

“I thought of root beer floats because people like them, and it cools them down,” he said. “We had a few (sales) slowdowns, but it was mostly pretty busy.”

The down time may have been even more financially lucrative than when the ice cream was flying.

“When it slowed down, I went out by the street to ask people to stop for a float,” Tanner said. “Many people told me they didn’t have time, but just gave me money anyway. One man handed me a $50 bill (which, for the record, he had seen before).”

He also added, the next day someone who could not stop at his float sale, dropped by the third grader’s home long enough to donate $100 in cash.

It seems Tanner may have gotten a bit of a helping hand from his advance marketing team: Mom.

“The root beer float sale was Tanner’s idea, but after he came up with it, we discussed it with all our neighbors,” Jennifer Cowley said. “I posted information about it on social media pages, PTA webpages and other places. We also posted a ‘three days away’ reminder and a ‘next day’ countdown.”

Harker was particularly excited to hear about the fundraising project, for two reasons. First, she was thrilled to learn Tanner and his parents live in her council district. And second, the tree planting will occur at the same Bennion Park where her son Mitchel’s Eagle Scout service project will be installed.

Last month, the Taylorsville Journal reported on Mitchel Harker and his Boy Scout Troop 1069 troopmates who constructed a “little library.” The roughly 2.5-foot square box will be placed on a pedestal to allow people to donate or borrow books.

“The very day after Mitchel presented his project to the city council, I received a call from Jennifer Cowley, explaining what Tanner had in mind,” Harker said. “To me it was like these projects were meant to be. I am so proud of Tanner. He’s in third grade — the same grade I teach (though not at the same school). Kids need to know they can make a difference.”

City officials now plan to host a tree planting — and to honor Tanner and Mitchel for their ingenuity and determination — on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 10. 

Tanner’s dad, Trevor Cowley, was a key member of the two-person root beer float assembly line. He scooped the ice cream before his son added the beverage.

“I am absolutely amazed at what Tanner did and am very proud of him,” the Trevor Cowley said. “When he sets his mind on something, he accomplishes it.”

Tanner’s fundraising effort also drew the attention of the Unified Police Department and Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant, who presented Cowley with a commemorative coin. His mother said it was for her son’s determination to go “above and beyond.”

Tanner’s impromptu fundraiser drew the attention of KUTV 2 News, which did a story on his effort. And it also did not go unnoticed in our nation’s capital.

“Your generosity to the city and hard work on behalf of (Bennion) Park has not gone unnoticed,” Congressman Ben McAdams said to Tanner, in a letter dated Aug. 26, 2019. “Congratulations on raising such a phenomenal amount, and thank you for your hard work.”

In the midst of all the hoopla surrounding his fundraising effort, it is not lost on Tanner that the soon-to-be-planted trees, as a practical matter, aren’t really going to benefit him personally all that much. And he’s fine with that.

“By the time the trees grow enough to make a lot of shade, I may be too old to play on the playground equipment much,” he said. “But when I have kids, they will want to play there. Lots of other kids will too. So that makes me feel good.”  

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