By Pete Zamplas- Sue Moon is out-coaching cancer in a sense, by raising over $160,000 for research and programs to counter the disease including for a new teen room in Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville.
Coach Moon gets scholar-athletes to “shoot for the Moon,” and to become stars on the court and beyond. The heralded, veteran head coach of volleyball and basketball at North Henderson is also the school’s assistant athletic director. She motivates students to “develop into contributing members of society.”
Volleyball Lady Knights have won the last five N.C. High School Athletic Association Commissioner’s Cup Awards for civic service, such as for raising over $21,000 so far this year to fight cancer. Efforts are through the academic year, peaking in May. Moon is “amazed and impressed” by participation.
The Knights Vs. Cancer Spirit Week culminates with the public Vs. Cancer Festival on Friday, May 24 at 5-10 p.m. at the school. Booths outside the gym include for throwing a pie at a person’s face, face painting, selling ribbons, and concessions. A corn hole toss tourney is in the auxiliary gym. Cuties for a Cure features a team dance contest between student female/male impersonators. Blood donations will be taken, for transfusions to cancer patients.
This Saturday is Cars Vs. Cancer, 1-5 p.m. at NHHS. Registration is $10 per vehicle in the car show. The public gets in free. The school is at 35 Fruitland Rd., north of Wal-Mart near U.S. 64 East.
On Thursday, May 9 in national Teacher Appreciation Week, Coach Moon received the 12th annual Ricky Sparks Spirit Award. This was in the Kiwanis All-Stars of Henderson County awards luncheon, in The Chariot in Hendersonville. The Tribune next week will chronicle the other honorees. The Sparks Award is for athletic and community spirit and impact. It was begun in 2008, by Ricky’s siblings in his memory.
This is the 11th year of North Henderson’s fundraising for cancer programs. That has generated over $60,000 of the $160,000 raised in ten years, organizer Moon noted. She said NHHS students have “taken this cause to heart.”
The elite statewide Toby Webb Coach of the Year Award went to Moon in 2017. She was the female coach winner, for all high school sports and levels in N.C. It is for “encouraging (students) to succeed, helping to develop self-confidence, ambition, a sound work ethic…scholarship, citizenship, and music.” She won $2,000. In ’15 she got the N.C. Farm Bureau Insurance’s Homer Thompson Memorial, as among “Eight Who Make A Difference.”
Locally, thanks to North Henderson fundraisers and Vs. Cancer, Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville has a new teen room in its pediatric oncology unit. Cancer patients can get treatment there, or socialize and better realize they are not alone in their fight, Moon said.
She spoke with The Tribune at the Kiwanis banquet, then the next day on Friday just before volunteering at the Wine for a Cure benefit at Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards.
Two weeks earlier was the 12-hour TRX All Knight for Knights Vs. Cancer, with suspension training in EFitness Studio in Fletcher. Volley For A Cure is in the fall.
In battling cancer, 1977 Edneyville High School grad Moon honors her late elder sister, Pat Moon Brackett. Pat was an EHS hoops star, and a teacher. “She was my hero,” Sue said. Pat died from leukemia, when she was 31. What Sue Moon said of the Sparks family in accepting their award also goes for the Moon legacy — to “turn pain into passion, and tragedy into a triumph” for over a decade.
Sue Moon also forges future leaders. She created the Scholar Athlete Cord for pending NHHS grads with three or more varsity letters and unweighted GPA of 3.4-plus. She developed The Ultimate Teammate for volleyball players’ service projects and leadership skills. Moon teaches history (i.e. honors civics and econ), is Student Government advisor and the school’s 2019 teacher of the year.
Principal John Shepard and Asst. Principal/Athletic Director John McDaris laud her as a molder and motivator. “Coach Moon is an old-school coach,” McDaris said. “They inspire — from a high level of respect of their kids. She doesn’t let the little things go — as a coach, nor in character and academics.” He said in civic projects, “She leads by example. Her belief is ‘we do more than we’re asked to do.’”
Caroline Marsh won the WNC Sports Award as top female athlete at a major area school, two years ago. She starred at North in basketball and volleyball. Marsh plays for UNC Wilmington in both indoor and beach volleyball, and majors in biology.
“She’s intense. She gets you motivated,” Marsh told The Tribune about Moon. Yet “she’s also controlled.” Marsh said Moon’s motto during playoffs was “‘be phenomenal, or be gone.’ She urged us to do what we could, but to have fun. We were pumped, and all excited.”
Recent NHHS alum Megan Edwards credits Coach Moon for current “confidence” and to “give advice when I panic, lift me up when I’m upset, or set me straight when I’m not living up to my potential.”
Sue Moon has coached volleyball for some 32 years, and women’s varsity and JV basketball for most of that time. Her last 18 volleyball seasons were at North, as she returned to the school after a stint at Enka. She was once N.C. regional coach of the year. She coached in the N.C. East-West and WNC Blue-White basketball all-star games. She launched a local youth volleyball rec league and North Valley area club.
Moon relishes local athletic “intense rivalries.” She is turning over NHHS hoops reins for ’19-20 to Zach Wilkins, formerly NHHS football coach.
Sue kept her maiden name Moon. Her son is Patrick. Daughter Kasey is a Clemson student. Sue’s degrees are a B.A. from UNC Greensboro, and master’s of education at Western Carolina University.
The future coach in eighth grade quizzed her history teacher, John Whitmire, about strategy in his latest EHS boys basketball games. Also in 1972-73, Moon was in a mock election campaign. Whitmire assigned her the underdog role of Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles, who had lost the ’72 governor’s race. Moon relished the challenge. “I said, ‘I’ll show you, Mr. Whitmire.’ I won that election.”
For years, Knights Vs. Cancer revenue went to the American Cancer Society, such as from its Relay for Life in May.
This is the fourth year that proceeds are instead more localized, to Raleigh-based Vs. Cancer for research and child life enhancement. The non-profit’s Vs. Cancer Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is in Asheville. Vs. Cancer founder Chase Jones was a UNC-CH freshman baseball player in 2006, when diagnosed with a stage IV brain tumor he has still survived.
The Knights Vs. Cancer’s festival’s main ceremony is in the gym at 6 p.m. Honored are cancer survivors and recent victims who “lost the fight,” Moon said. Cancer survivors should show up by 5:30 p.m. Typically at 9:30 p.m., sky lanterns float to the heavens.
Donors to Vs. Cancer should write checks to “Knights Vs. Cancer,” and can deliver them to the school main office or at the rally May 24. For more on what that money goes for, check Vs-cancer.org.