OXFORD, Miss. – Marlee Crawford, a University of Mississippi sophomore, bested a student from Mississippi State University in a game of bean bag toss before the Nov. 28 Egg Bowl to win free tuition for the remainder of her education here.
Crawford, a journalism major from Oxford, defeated Emily Ware, a junior at MSU, in the C Spire Toss for Tuition by a score of 21-16 as 2,000 friends, family and spectators cheered.
“Actually playing corn hole at the game just felt like a dream,” Crawford said. “I was so nervous, but when I won, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was so grateful and thrilled for that amazing opportunity – it was truly a blessing.”
The company sponsored the contest in November at all its 56 store locations in the state. Hundreds of students and their families had entered the contest, and Crawford and Ware were chosen as the two finalists to battle it out for tuition.
The Mississippi-based company has donated more than $3 million since 2008 to higher education-related scholarships, causes and programs across Mississippi through its nonprofit foundation. Crawford’s victory could yield her an estimated $18,360 in tuition funds.
“At C Spire, support for education has been a key focus for over 27 years, and we are passionately committed to helping elementary, high school and college-age students succeed in school, in the workforce and in life,” said Jim Richmond, vice president of corporate communications for C Spire. “Our children are our future. We need to prepare and support the next generation to be leaders in their communities and the world.”
Interim UM Chancellor Morris Stocks congratulated Crawford.
“We are thrilled for Marlee and her good fortune,” Stocks said. “We are also extremely grateful to C Spire for its outstanding support of higher education in Mississippi.”
Crawford said she was shocked when she was told she was selected for the showdown. She had one week to learn the rules of the game and practice her throws with a borrowed game set, but she immediately went to work. Her mother, Tammy Crawford, paced nervously during the competition.
“She couldn’t have practiced harder, and I’m so proud of her,” Tammy Crawford said. “It’s a sincere blessing.”
After she won, her father, Ray Crawford, was there to hug her. He said the funds are a huge blessing for the family.
“It’s amazing that C Spire would do that for some fortunate individual, but it’s even more incredible that it’s our daughter,” Ray Crawford said. “We were shocked and overjoyed that she won. God definitely had a hand in this. It’s a huge load off of our shoulders, as we are helping to pay for her schooling.”
With the big victory behind her, Crawford said the money will be extremely beneficial to her, especially since she is planning to study abroad in England in 2016.
“College is such a financial burden for families, and I’m grateful to C Spire for providing opportunities like this one for students,” Crawford said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better support system: my family and friends that practiced with me, coached me and were there cheering me on.”