The former Bachelorette star gives PEOPLE the exclusive scoop on Dawkins’ romantic proposal following a year of hardships, including a “hopeless” breakup and a family health crisis
Clare Crawley found someone who lights up her life.
The former Bachelorette star exclusively shares with PEOPLE the romantic way Mascot Sports CEO Ryan Dawkins proposed to her — and it all ties into how she found joy in her life.
Crawley, 41, says she’s known Dawkins was her future for some time, though the engagement came as a surprise to her.
“We talked about it before. I knew months ago that he was my person,” she says. “He’s been there in my darkest moments and so patient with me and letting me have this space to heal. He’s totally my person and I love him more than the world.”
“Especially coming off the show, I always told him I never wanted him to feel pressure. As long as I have him, I’m happy and I don’t need anything more than that,” she adds.
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Dawkins chose a Las Vegas lantern festival for the life-changing moment. It actually holds special meaning for Crawley, as it represented how she found light amid challenging times.
“We went to the Rise Festival in Vegas,” she explains. “He knew what this festival meant to me — that I’ve seen the darkest moments, and I wanted him to be there to celebrate the light. What I wrote on my lantern was ‘don’t give up.’ We lit our lanterns, and I turned around, and he got down on one knee, and it was the most surreal special thing I ever could have dreamt of.”
Dawkins met Crawley during a trying time in her life. The former reality star was previously engaged to her Bachelorette costar Dale Moss, and what followed was two very public breakups.
“I was hopeless after my last relationship. I wanted to give up so bad,” she says of the split.
At the same time, Crawley’s mother was also hospitalized amid her battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“[Ryan and I] met last year and we were friends. I told him my mom’s in the hospital, I just went through a breakup [and] I can’t even eat right now and he said that’s okay let’s grab a tea and go on a walk,” she recalls.
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“I was going through such healing and so much pain in my heart, and he was there,” she adds. “He’s the most amazing guy. He would drive an hour and a half three times a week just to go on a walk with me. He was there in my darkest moments and it makes me so happy that he’s here celebrating the light.”
Crawley — who says her first date with Dawkins was in September 2021 — has kept her relationship close. She only announced her new romance on social media last month.
For Crawley, keeping this love out of the spotlight has a purpose.
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“He’s not after fame and that’s been one of the most important things to me. He has a private Instagram page. He didn’t care if our relationship was shared or not,” she says. “Really what he’s in it for is my heart and he is so consistent and so vocal about how much he loves me.”
Crawley adds: “It is something I have never experienced.”