In 1989, Ken Wanovich was a team leader in a group from Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota that traveled to Merida, Mexico to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Gilbert. After completing their mission project, the group had a one-day layover in Cancun. While in Cancun, a small group of adults decided to visit the island of Isla Mujeres. On that day, an unforgettable imprint of Isla Mujeres was made on Ken's heart, and his love for the Mexican culture and the people of Isla Mujeres began. The ensuing years brought Ken to the island many times to enjoy the beauty of North Beach, the wonderful cuisine on Ave. Hidalgo, and the endearing friendship of the local people. Debbie fell in love with the island as well, and on October 19, 2007, Ken and Debbie Wanovich were married on Playa Norte (North Beach), Isla Mujeres.
As a professional musician, life has been comfortable for Ken & Debbie. Ken performs in Minnesota and Mexico, where he travels and makes new friends along the way. After 35 years of teaching in the field of Special Education, primarily as an autism specialist, Debbie has retired as a full-time teacher and now works as a paraprofessional at a local charter school. Over the past several years, Ken and Debbie traveled to Isla Mujeres with guitar and sound system in tow, performing music, and entertaining guests from all over the world at many of the local restaurants and cantinas on Isla Mujeres.
Life took a beautiful new direction in the spring of 2012. Ken & Debbie were invited to lunch at the home of longtime friends Jesus and Wilma DeSilva. Jesus lives in the tiny village of Guadalupana on the south end of the island. Both Jesus and Wilma were proud to have their American friends over for lunch. During our lunch, we experienced the pure and authentic hospitality of the people of Guadalupana. They live a poor, yet proud lifestyle, always operating on the value of "mi casa es su casa" (my home is your home). Isla Mujeres is a tropical paradise for sure, but those who support the fishing, hotel, and restaurant industry here live a very humble lifestyle with most making up to $10 for a 10-hour workday to support their families.
To our surprise, Guadalupana was filled with beautiful families living in dirt-floor homes with tar paper walls and corrugated tin roofs. Two-hundred-fifty (250) families make up this little village, and what little they have, they are happy to share! It is amazing for us to see how people with so little in comparison to our lifestyle could be so happy, joyful, and content.
The following Christmas, Ken and Debbie met Robb and Sally Sals through mutual friends. In a conversation over lunch that winter afternoon, Robb expressed his desire to do something significant in his retirement. Ken also spoke of his desire to do something to contribute to the people of the island of Isla Mujeres. What was born that day, and has now become a reality, is a 501c(3)non-profit organization called Keys 4 Life, Inc., formed by Ken and Debbie Wanovich on June 21, 2013.
At Keys 4 Life, our mission is "to provide resources for children from low-income families to access proper nutrition, basic human needs, educational opportunities, and leadership training in the four "Key" areas of life: Spiritual, Educational, Emotional and Physical."
All profits from Ken's Christmas CD, "Give It Away," are going to fund Keys 4 Life in order to bring hope to those who have very little hope in this world. We are starting with the Mexican people of Isla Mujeres, but that is just the beginning. Please join us as we bring food, clothing, shelter, and the hope of a better life to those in need... they are counting on YOU!