FREEBIRD SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
One of Judy's original goals when she founded the Freebird Foundation, Inc in 1990 was to establish a series of scholarships and grants for deserving students. The first step toward implementing that ambitious plan came in the Spring of 1996 when the Foundation gave it first award -- the Allen Collins Memorial scholarship.
The Foundation set up the scholarship in the winter of 1995. Funding the scholarship came about in a unique way -- the premiere of Freebird... The Movie in Atlanta on December 29, 1995. Knowing that many fans would enjoy seeing the premiere, the Foundation offered 100 select seats to the general public at $100 each. This is the money that started the endowment for the new schoalrship. The Lynyrd Skynyrd band and management also arranged a $5,000 donation to further endow the scholarship.
The $2,000 scholarship was designed to help a student who had no other way of attaining their goal of attending college. It would go to a student serious about their studies, but not necessarily the top students in their class. The winner also had to demonstrate a financial need for the scholarship.
It was decided that the first award would be presented to a student at Lee High School (home of the infamous Leonard Skinner) in Jacksonville, Florida and then would float to other local high schools in the coming years. Finally, in April the applications started coming in and a winner was selected. Corey Hunt, a senior at Lee, was selected from among the dozens of entries for the $2,000 scholarship. Corey wrote in his application, "With my family's present situation, financial aid wouldn't even cut the costs enough for me to be able to go to school. The truth is, without this scholarship, I won't be able to attend college." With a grade point average that placed him in the top 15 percent of his class and his counselor's recommendation, Corey was the choice.
Corey attends FCCJ in Jacksonville and studies sports medicine. If he continues as a full-time student and maintains his grade point average, the $2,000 scholarship can be renewed for the next three years. Best of luck at college and beyond Corey!
Originally, the Foundation planned on awarding a second scholarship in Allen's name, but because of resistance from Allen's father, Larkin Collins -- the executor of Allen's estate -- plans had to be changed. Corey will continue to receive his $2,000 award each year, but the Foundation can not award the scholarship again. In order to maintain the Foundation's scholarship goal, Judy met with Teresa and Corrina Gaines about establishing a memorial for Steve and Cassie Gaines. Corrina decided to donate the first year's award of $2,000 to fund the Steve and Cassie Gaines Memorial Scholarship. The Foundation helped raise funds to continue the award for the other three years.
Judy and Melody also established the Ronnie VanZant Memorial Scholarship to be awarded. It is also a $2,000 a year award and was presented to a Lee High School student.