Huntington West Virginia's Ritter Park fountain

Courtney Thomas Memorial Scholarship Honors Students Who Help Others

Courtney Thomas loved reading “Amelia Bedelia” books and wearing bows on her shoes that matched the bows in her hair. But that’s not what she was known for.

“Courtney was a helper,” said her mom, Lydia Crawford. “When we’d go to the park, she wouldn’t swing. She’d push other kids in the swings. When we saw someone in a wheelchair, she’d run over to hold the door for them. She didn’t care who you were, what you looked like or what you needed—she just wanted to help.”

In kindergarten at Poage Elementary, a special education class met next door to Courtney’s classroom. She often snuck out of her own class to visit.

“She loved reading to the children,” Crawford said. “Her reading skills really picked up that year, just because she was always over there reading. One of the girls couldn’t speak, so Courtney got her dad to teach her sign language. After a while, her teacher was used to getting the call from next door: ‘Hey, Courtney’s here again.’”

On June 13, 1995, just shy of her 11th birthday, Courtney died in a tragic car accident. Crawford knew honoring her daughter’s memory meant one thing: continuing her legacy of helping others. So, with the assistance of Foundation for the Tri-State Community, Crawford created the Courtney Thomas Memorial Scholarship, an endowed scholarship fund that will carry out Courtney’s legacy forever.

Established in 1998, the scholarship is for any student at Paul G. Blazer High School, where Courtney would have attended, entering into a college or technical program focused on helping others, from nursing to teaching to nonprofit work. The first scholarship from the fund was awarded in 2003, the year Courtney would have graduated.

“We didn’t want to make the scholarship requirements too specific,” Crawford said. “Courtney wouldn’t have wanted that. She just would’ve wanted people to be helpful to their community, because that’s what she was. If she walked past a withering plant, she’d go find water for it. We want the scholarship to recognize students who are helpers. We want to recognize the ones who are in tune to the needs of their community and world.”

Scholarship recipients are chosen based on their care and concern for others, their history of community service and their career plans. Crawford said working with Foundation for the Tri-State Community gives her peace of mind in knowing that her vision for the fund will carry on perpetually.

“The Foundation staff work hard to ensure their scholarships are handled in the exact way they were intended to be handled,” she said. “They really listen to what donors want. They don’t take anything lightly.”

Crawford, a certified public accountant, said she has been surprised at the scholarship fund’s growth over the years. As an endowed fund, the scholarship continues to earn money even as awards are given out annually.

“The earnings are just phenomenal, even during downturns,” she said. “Of course I expected the Foundation to take care of the scholarship in a fiduciary capacity, but they’ve gone beyond that. It’s like they know Courtney. They know what she stood for, and they want to make sure that what meant the most to her stays alive.”

There’s a bright spot in everything, she said, and one bright spot is knowing that Courtney will be helping people forever.

“What’s amazing to me is that through the Foundation, Courtney is still helping others today,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for better people to take care of my daughter and keep her memory alive.”

For more information about the Courtney Thomas Memorial Scholarship or to obtain an application, call the Foundation at 606-324-3888.