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The article goes on to say:
Rick Bowen started Youth Development Fund 30 years ago. Its stated mission is to fund educational programs for children to prevent drug abuse and promote health and fitness.
Over the past decade, donors contacted by professional solicitors have given the Tennessee charity nearly $30 million. Youth Development paid those solictors 83 percent of the money raised.
Much of what’s left goes to Bowen himself. Youth Development pays Bowen’s private production company about $200,000 a year to produce two underwater videos. The charity also pays a Knoxville TV station to air Rick Bowen’s Deep Sea Diving on Sunday afternoon, though the show makes no mention of Youth Development Fund.
In its IRS tax filing, the charity says the shows have a potential audience of 1.3 million. But the station manager said the shows attract only about 3,600 viewers each week.
Bowen, now 63, said his company “just happened to be the low bidder,” for the video work, which has taken him from Cozumel to Key West.
Youth Development Fund also solicits under the name “Children’s Dream Network,” saying the program “provides dreams to children with life-threatening illness.” Bowen said the program finds children through word of mouth and currently has about 300 families awaiting help. The charity has spent an average of $23,000 a year on direct cash aid to dying children.
Since 2009, the charity has also shipped donated medical supplies valued at about $9 million to Central America. Bowen said the supplier recommended an orphanage in Guatemala as one of the recipients. Youth Development Fund pays the supplier a few thousand dollars for shipping and counts the full value of the shipment as revenue on its tax forms. That boosts the charity’s good deeds and makes its fundraising costs look lower in comparison to donations raised.
“It’s just a way to help so many more people,” Bowen said of the donations. “I got thank you letters, the whole bit.”