Geneva High senior softball player Chloe Nance enjoyed a $5,000 lunch on Tuesday.
Well, sort of.
She arrived at a Dothan restaurant with her mother for a meeting with some potential customers in hopes of selling some makeup as part of her side job to help make money for college. Instead, Nance got a big surprise when she was presented the Rhonda’s Softball Family Scholarship worth $5,000.
“I have never had a $5,000 lunch,” Nance said. “I’ve never had a $5,000 anything.”
She does now, and it will be a tremendous help for Nance as she begins her studies this summer at Enterprise State Community College. Nance, also a volleyball standout, has opted not to play sports in college so she can concentrate on her school work.
“It’s the best feeling,” Nance said of receiving the scholarship. “I don’t really know how to describe it other than a relief and a big weight being lifted off not just my shoulders, but my family’s shoulders. We have an older sibling in college, so it’s a really big deal.”
Rhonda Kirk, the supervisor of the Westgate Softball Complex who the scholarship is named after, had the joy of presenting the check to Nance.
“Chloe wrote an exceptional essay that really touched everyone on our committee,” Kirk said. “She was limited to 250 words and she got her point across, and she got her heart across. I don’t know her very well, but I can tell you that kid has a big heart.”
Nance said it wasn’t easy to write and talk about what’s been a tough time in her life.
“I just told them what was really personal to me,” Nance said. “We had a really difficult year, personally, and my team included with the loss of my dad and one of my teammates just within three days of each other this Christmas.”
The idea for the scholarship originated from several adult softball players who simply wanted to get back together for a reunion of sorts through a golf tournament several years ago. It was Kirk who suggested the money raised from what was named the Rhonda’s Softball Family Golf Tournament be turned into a scholarship for a deserving high school softball player.
To apply, a player must write a 250-word essay explaining how the scholarship would help, have a recommendation from at least one coach and one teacher, include their current grade point average and register for an NCAA Clearinghouse ID.
There were 15 applications this year that were narrowed down to three by a committee, who then had phone interviews with each finalist. Former Dothan High and Auburn University star softball player Kasey Cooper was among those on the committee.
Nance was the third player in as many years to earn the scholarship, which increased this year from $2,500 to $5,000 after the biggest turnout thus far for the golf tournament.
Nance’s mother, Dawn, was informed on Tuesday that her daughter had won.
“The money obviously relieves some tension,” the proud mother said. “Chloe has had an emotional year to say the least, so it was sort of like the rainbow after the rain. She didn’t feel real strong about her interview because she did get emotional one time, so she kind of left disappointed in herself with the interview and that was hard to see.
“When Rhonda called to tell me she did great and she won it, I think my heart just went up to my throat.”
Dawn then set up the trip to the restaurant for the surprise presentation.
“It didn’t really hit me until we got in the car and we were headed away from the restaurant,” Nance said. “I was looking at mom and was like, ‘I just got $5,000.’”
For the record, Nance didn’t sell any makeup.
“I didn’t, but this was better,” Nance said with a laugh. “I’ve caught on to surprises and stuff before, but they kept this a really big secret from me.”