Stonington HS senior surprised with $20K scholarship to college from local business owner

New London

STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — When Eva Dale walked around the corner in the back parking lot of the Velvet Mill in Stonington, she was not expecting to be greeted by a group of family,  friends, and teachers cheering her on.

And she certainly was not expecting what would come next. 

“Very surprised,” said Eva, a senior at Stonington High School. “I saw a sign with my name and I was not expecting my name.”

She thought she was meeting someone who was going to back a book she wrote and illustrated about a therapy dog named Phantom. 

Instead she met Annette & Keith Bienkowski, owners of Cove Ledge Beer, Wine, & Spirits.

“COVID has hit your family hard,” Annette Bienkowski told Eva right before the check presentation.

She and her husband had a big surprise for her.

“Cove Ledge would like to present you this year’s scholarship for $20,000,” said Bienkowski, who drew a round of applause.

Eva almost cancelled her plans to go to Ringling College of Art & Design in Florida because her parents were out of work during this pandemic.

“It’s just an incredible relief. What was holding her back was the bill,” said Emily Dale, Eva’s mother.

“To help her to get through an education that’s gonna be spectacular what more is there?” said Bienkowski.

The scholarship allows Eva to pursue her dream.

“I’ve made art my entire life since I could hold a pen and that’s all I want to do for the rest of my life,” said Eva.

Her book ‘Phantom’s Journey’ is about a therapy dog in Stonington who has since passed away.

“The book is based on like a message that you don’t need to be perfect to make a difference,” said Eva.

We asked Phantom’s owner Michelle Lake about the illustrations.

“They are spot on right down to his little freckle,” she said with a laugh.

“She blows me away with her writing so she could be doing a whole different type of book at some point in her future,” said Melissa Kwan, Eva’s English Teacher.

Eva already knows about giving back to the community. Proceeds from her book will be going to the Forever in My Heart Foundation which takes shelter dogs and trains them to become service dogs for veterans.”

Today though she is thankful.

“It’s so much help and I was not expecting that,” said Eva. “I’m so grateful.”

Another heartwarming story, this time illustrated for Eva.

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