In face of tragedy came this peaceful vision through a little silver fish

Mohegan

The voice on the other end of the phone belonged to Rebecca Kowalski, the mother of 7-year-old Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski, one of the 26 people who died Dec. 14, 2013 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

And she was talking about the little silver fish in "Finding Nemo." And how they made their biggest difference when they all swam together.

This is Rebecca Kowalski's story:

Together, we find peace through the violence, triumph through tragedy, a light for the way. During the storm, she's become a dancer in the rain.

She will be one of three women honored tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena, when the Connecticut Sun salute their 2014 "Women of Inspiration." Kowalski joins former governor Jodi Rell, an advocate for early detection of breast cancer and Heather Ciarletto, a senior at Wethersfield High School and creator of SWAT, the Student Wethersfield Action Team, dedicated to encouraging social justice and a tolerance for diversity.

There are no words for what befell the Kowalskis and 25 other families Dec. 14, 2013. But this much endures: Rebecca Kowalski is Chase's mother. Then, now, always. And the epiphany that changed her life came in the late hours of a day she calls "surreal."

"Chase came to me in a vision," she said. "It filled me with peace. He explained to me what was going to happen at the funeral. My husband (Stephen) doesn't like crowds. I saw it through Chase's eyes and shared it with Stephen. It was a vision, Chase's vision, of how changing the world happens through bringing people together."

This is when she told the story of the little silver fish.

"It told me what my life's purpose would be about," Kowalski said. "I had direction. I was filled with peace. I needed to share it with people."

And so three days later, Dec. 17, 2013, the Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski Sandy Hook Foundation (CMAK) happened, a 501(c)3 established to inspire community healing through family and children-focused initiatives and programs.

CMAK illustrates - radiates - that in simplicity there is poetry. It reflects the whims of a 7-year-old boy and what was important to him. The life of a 7-year-old is often lollipops and balloons. In this case, preschool and triathlons.

Among CMAK's tentacles features a mechanism for grants to the Greater Waterbury YMCA preschool education program, which provides need-based financial support for preschool scholarships. Kowalski believes preschool, instrumental in helping Chase overcome a speech delay, would benefit others in need.

There's also the Race4Chase Kid's Tri program, which will provide 30 children, ages 6-12, with the opportunity to learn about being a triathlete, and Race4Chase, a campaign to encourage grassroots fundraising. Family friend Kevin Bresnahan founded "1,000 miles for Chase," collecting pledges and donations, running 1,000 miles in Chase's memory.

Maybe its most enduring arm, though, is Chase's Place, areas where families can spend time together, without iPhones, iPods, televisions and other gadgetry that purport to help us communicate, but tug at the concept of togetherness with their impersonal means.

What's immediately evident about Rebecca Kowalski: She lives the peace from Chase's vision. There are no speeches. No shouting damnation at anybody, even with all the post Sandy Hook hollering notwithstanding. As if who's right and who's wrong brings 26 people back.

It's the peaceful vision.

Together, we can.

"It's not about mental health of gun control issues," she said. "It's about spending time with your children. Being together. Making them the best they can be. The most inspirational thing is that Chase is changing the world. He is the inspiration and we are all just facilitators."

Visit www.chasekowalskifund.com to learn more.

There won't be a dry eye in the house at halftime tonight. Stay in your seats. Listen. Appreciate. Rebecca Kowalski's messages of peace and togetherness retire the trophy for "women of inspiration."

We can lament the Sun's 2-6 record until we hyperventilate. There is no denying, however, the lengths to which the franchise has made Connecticut a better place for the last 12 summers. Especially because of nights like this.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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