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Nicole Phillips

Nicole Phillips won a new car on an episode of "The Price is Right" that aired Friday.

ATHENS, Ohio — Like a lot of us, longtime Forum Communications columnist Nicole Phillips grew up watching "The Price is Right" — but unlike most of us, she's getting something besides an hour of game show entertainment out of her fandom.

Phillips, who writes the Kindness is Contagious column for Forum Communications and is married to former North Dakota State University Bison basketball coach Saul Phillips, won a 2019 Mazda CX-3 Sport Crossover SUV and a Nikon camera on a previously recorded episode of the show that aired Friday on CBS.

It all began in February on a whim.

"I was going out to L.A. to appear on The Hallmark Channel to talk about kindness with two members of the kindness team (Amanda Koenecke and Chloe Meston)," Phillips said. "We thought, 'Let's do something crazy and fun!'"

Going on "The Price is Right" fit the bill. After getting tickets online, they showed up to the studio where Phillips says the audience was broken up into groups of 20 for quick auditions.

"They just asked, 'Where are you from? What do you do?', those kinds of things," Phillips said. "When I told them I wrote a kindness column in Fargo, they seemed really surprised and interested. We talked for a long time."

After being seated, Phillips struck up a conversation with a man and his mother sitting behind her. They told Nicole they knew she was going to get chosen for the show. They just had a feeling.

"Her name was Maria and she told me in broken English, 'I'm very good with numbers,'" Phillips said. "She had the sweetest smile when she said that."

Phillips knew she might have an ally, and the columnist was the fourth person chosen to "come on down!"

"The weird thing is it's so loud in there you can't hear anything, so they have cue cards on the stage with your name so you know to go down to Bidder's Row," Phillips said.

Phillips said they were asked to bid on a Nikon camera, so she turned back to new number-savvy friend Maria for guidance.

"She told me to bid $1,000, but the first person bid that, so she told me to bid $1,001," Phillips said. "I told Drew (Carey, the host), 'I hate it when people do this, but I'm going to bid $1,001.' He teased me about that for the rest of the show."

The reluctant bid got her on the stage to play a game called "Any Number" where she eventually won the car. When she spun the big wheel to go to the Showcase Showdown, she was "about a centimeter short" of winning $1,000, but instead another competitor got to move forward. Even so, Phillips said she couldn't believe what happened.

"I was almost hyperventilating backstage," she said. "I kept asking for a drink of water."

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Phillips said one of the hardest things about it was keeping everything a secret for three months. She had to sign a contract stating she'd have to forfeit her prizes if word got out about her appearance on the show.

"It was so difficult. I don't know how 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' do it," she said, laughing.

As for her new SUV, the timing couldn't be better. She said they'll have a new driver in the family soon, and with husband Saul losing his coaching job a month ago at Ohio University, they knew they'd be losing the vehicle the school provided.

"I think it's something that weighed on us a bit, that we'd have to invest in a new vehicle," she said. "But it's like God looked down on us and said, 'I got this one.'"

She said she's looking into giving the camera away to someone who might have more use for it and appreciate it. Perhaps even Maria, the numbers whiz.

"I have her son's phone number. I called him after watching the show and said, 'It was so great to see your sweet mom's face on TV,'" she said. "I know I would not have won without her."

Phillips said her experience was full of examples of kindness everywhere she looked. Not surprisingly, she said, she'll probably write about it in an upcoming column for Forum Communications.

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