Owen Bailey · The Friendship Paddle 2021

Owen grew up in the small town of Warren, Connecticut. His early years were all about the outdoors: wandering endlessly in the woods, camping, canoeing and working on the family farm. These years shaped Owen’s love of nature and his drive to protect our environment.

When Owen graduated from the University of CT, he left with more than a degree. There, he met Laurie, and together in 2021 they celebrated 28 years of marriage. Owen, Laurie, and their two kids, Ben (now 17) and Nicola (now 13) moved to the Santa Barbara area in 2013 when Owen was hired as Executive Director of the Environmental Defense Center (EDC).

Owen’s passion for nature and his faith in the power of the individual and community to make a difference in protecting our environment are contagious and inspire his staff, board, and peers. He works every day to protect the ocean, our coast, clean air and water, and the unique landscape of the South Central Coast. He is committed to ensuring environmental justice for all.

In 2017 Owen was diagnosed with cancer in his left tonsil. By the time it was caught, it had already spread to the lymph nodes in his neck, but the disease was still considered treatable and curable. After surgery and radiation Owen was overjoyed to receive an all-clear by early 2018. Treatment had worked! Unfortunately, just 12 months later, the cancer had metastasized, returning and spreading to his neck and lungs. Over the last two years, Owen has been hospitalized three times and has had thirteen cycles of chemotherapy, more radiation, and has participated in two different clinical trials.

Fighting cancer and facing uncertainty can often bring isolation and anxiety. Facing this disease with a compromised immune system during a pandemic only makes this worse. But Owen remains optimistic. When one treatment fails, he looks to the next, ever-confident that the next one will work. Owen’s family and community have been instrumental to keeping him going through the darkest times. To Owen, laughter, love, and a walk on the beach all promote healing, and with this support from the Friendship Paddle, we know Owen will make it through.

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