By Edwin B. Smith
University of Mississippi
Devon Corbett was a normal teenager until a skiing accident left him paralyzed two years ago. This spring, he is the beneficiary of a record-setting charitable response from the 32nd Annual Sigma Nu Charity Bowl at the University of Mississippi.
The Charity Bowl pits members of Sigma Nu and Kappa Alpha against one another in a football game played in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. This year, the fraternity set a fundraising record, with more than $300,000 raised through ad sales and donations.
Fraternity members donated roughly $200,000 to the Devon Corbett Special Needs Trust for his medical expenses and rehabilitation.
During a school ski trip in 2020, Corbett lost control of his skis and struck a tree at high speed. The collision caused a diffuse axonal injury in the then-15-year-old’s brain. DAI occurs when the brain rapidly shifts inside the skull, causing the long connecting fibers in the brain, called axons, to shear.
“He was wearing a helmet – a brand new one bought that morning – which undoubtedly saved his life,” said Corbett’s family in a statement on the Charity Bowl website.
“Devon responds most to his three incredible siblings and his friends, and we are so thankful for the love and support Devon and our family continue to receive.”
Twenty months into the battle of his life, Corbett is visiting multiple specialty rehab facilities across the U.S. to receive the greatest rehabilitation care possible for his injury. When he is not in therapy, he receives round-the-clock care. Corbett works hard and has come far, but he still cannot walk, talk or eat without assistance.
“The more intensive therapy he gets, the better he progresses,” Corbett’s family statement said. “Unfortunately, there are not many places that can provide all Devon needs, and insurance pays for so little.
“We are so grateful and humbled that Devon has been chosen to be the 2022 recipient of the Sigma Nu Charity Bowl, thanks to the fine young men of that fraternity, including some great friends from home.”
The first Charity Bowl kicked off in 1990 as a way to honor Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins. A beloved Ole Miss football player, Mullins’ life changed forever in 1989 when he was injured in a game against Vanderbilt University. The injury paralyzed him from the waist down. After returning to school, he died in 1991.
“Devon was ultimately selected as our recipient this year because of his contagious spirit, determination and bravery,” said Will Fletcher, a junior business major from Jackson and Sigma Nu philanthropy co-chair.
“Hearing about his injury, his recovery progress, and speaking with a few of our members that know his family made it clear that Devon embodied everything we look for in selecting a Charity Bowl recipient,” said Bradley Brantley, a junior information systems management major from Jackson and philanthropy co-chair.
From the money raised, $50,000 will go toward expanding student services at the university’s William Magee Center for AOD and Wellness Education. The Manning Family Fund will receive $25,000 to fund projects at the UM Medical Center in Jackson, including the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital expansion.
“This year’s Charity Bowl was an incredible success,” said Stewart McCullough, a junior accountancy major from Gluckstadt, Sigma Nu chapter president and philanthropy co-chair. “From the pre-game cheer competition to the football game and halftime homecoming court presentation, everything was flawless.
“It was incredible to see how many students attended the game and how invested the Ole Miss family and student body was in this year’s Charity Bowl.”
Lee Baker, a junior accountancy major from Augusta, Georgia, and president of Kappa Alpha fraternity, said the Charity Bowl is a special opportunity to compete while also positively influencing the Ole Miss Greek community.
“We chose to play in the Charity Bowl to be just a small part of the collaboration between coaches, players, sponsors and fans to honor the life and contribution of Chucky Mullins,” he said. “KA was honored to participate in the Charity Bowl, and we look forward to playing again in the future.”
In the years since its inception, the Charity Bowl has grown to be the country’s largest collegiate Greek philanthropy, with more than $3 million raised for its recipients.
Updates on Corbett’s progress and other ways to support his recovery can be found on his Instagram account, @D1_strong. For more information, visit https://www.sigmanucharitybowl.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/SigmaNuCharityBowl/.