She hadn’t finished when the winner was announced at the annual volleyball game at Lee University.
The name they called was Emily Bishop.
“I was really surprised because I didn’t even suspect anything,” Bishop said.
Bishop had no idea that Bradley Central High School teacher and longtime family friend Paula Deal had already nominated her for the scholarship.
Deal is a member of the Volley for a Cure committee, and used information from a news article in which Bishop talked about her experience when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer to nominate her for the award. Her father Jeff Bishop also gave Deal additional information.
He was the only family member who knew Emily had been chosen for the scholarship.
“My dad knew. I was actually going to a friend’s house that night, but he said, ‘Why don’t you come here with us?’” she said.
Jeff Bishop told his wife, Wendi, that Deal wanted her to participate in a survivor walk to get her to come to the event.
Both said Jeff Bishop is usually not good at keeping secrets. Emily said looking back she can see how he acted a little suspiciously, but she didn’t pick up on anything at the time.
Each year the committee works hard to keep the recipient from finding out who the winner is before the big night. Someone in the family is told to make sure the winner will be in attendance.
Wendi Bishop said the secretive nature of the announcement adds to the excitement.
The scholarship made Emily’s longtime dream of being a student at Lee University a reality. She had always wanted to go to Lee because some of her cousins had been students there.
She said it was overwhelming and exciting to realize she would actually be able to enroll in the university.
The scholarship is for $2,000 a semester and recipients can apply for renewal all four years of college. To keep the scholarship, students are asked to volunteer with the MaryEllen Locher Foundation. To fulfill this requirement, Emily helped create collages to sell at an art show fundraiser.
Wendi Bishop said the scholarships really help families who have been through cancer because the financial burden doesn’t end when the treatment does.
Emily is a pre-veterinarian major taking 17 credit hours. “I’ve always loved animals,” she said of her choice of majors.
Wendi Bishop was diagnosed with breast cancer when Emily was 9 years old.
At 9, Emily did not have a full grasp of what cancer was.
“I thought it was like a stomach virus, like she’s got a cold or something, but it wasn’t that easy,” she said.
However, when her mom started chemotherapy she realized this was something more serious, Emily said.
During the treatment, Emily helped her father take care of her mom and younger siblings.
“Almost every night someone would cook for us and bring it over,” Emily said.
She said her elementary school principal was also very supportive. His wife was going through chemotherapy at the same time as her mom.
Emily said she never had a moment of thinking that her mom would not be all right.
Since then, she has joined her mom in various breast cancer awareness events. Emily said she participates in events as often as she can.