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Kiwanis Club honors NHHS superfan

Alex Studer receives the Ricky Sparks Spirit Award from Kiwanian Don Jones as Brenda Sparks McCleerey looks on. Alex Studer receives the Ricky Sparks Spirit Award from Kiwanian Don Jones as Brenda Sparks McCleerey looks on.

Justin King said "there's something about that kid" when he took down his enrollment registration as a high school freshman. The kid was named Alex Studer and King, North Henderson High School's baseball coach, was right. That kid turned out to be something special, throughout his high school career and beyond.

"He's a huge part of North Henderson and for eight years he's been nothing but the biggest fan of North Henderson," King said."He's amazing. I tell my players, 'We're not here for him. He's here for us, to make us better people.'"

One player said of Alex, "If you know Alex he is going to love you with all his heart and make you feel like a hundred dollars."

Before the second inning of every Knight home game, Alex steps up to bat, takes a swing and connects, rounds the bases and then figures out a creative and entertaining way to cross home plate. He always hits a home run. When Alex graduated from North, Coach King told him not to worry; he'd always have a place in the Knight's dugout. Alex stayed on, and has been team manager since 2011.

For his boundless loyalty, enthusiasm and love for his team, Alex was named the 2018 Ricky Sparks Spirit Award winner on Thursday during the Hendersonville Kiwanis Club's 58th annual All-Star awards lunch honoring prep athletes in spring sports.

Alex's mother, Tracy Studer, thanked the Kiwanians for giving Alex the one thing she always wished for him — acceptance.

"As parents of a child with special needs, we tried to keep him involved in everything," she said. "It's been wonderful watching him go from high school to community involvement. Alex's school spirit will never die and he will always bleed purple."

It was the first time the award recognized a special needs adult, one like Ricky Sparks himself, a Hendersonville High School graduate and one of its biggest fans.

"Rick loved sports and he always cheered for his favorite team," said his sister, Brenda Sparks McCleerey. "He always was active in the Special Olympics. One of his specialties was the softball throw. Rick spent 40 years sitting on our grandparents' porch cheering for his Bearcats" as they walked to and from football practice along Ninth Avenue West.

Winner of the Lou Ann Morgan Leadership Award, named for a phys-ed teacher who displays the leadership and enthusiasm of Ms. Morgan, was Beverly Danielson.

A Henderson County native and West Henderson High School graduate, Danielson is the phys-ed teacher at Sugarloaf Elementary School. She attended Brevard College, won an undergraduate degree at Mars Hill and has masters in education from Gardner Webb. She taught in Henderson County schools, founded and served as director of the Mud Creek Baptist Church's preschool, from 1995 until 2004. She returned to the county schools, and was named a Walmart teacher of the year in 2007 and teacher of the year at Fletcher Elementary School in 2011.

Morgan's daughter, Mandi Fletcher, told the club members about Lou Ann Morgan and her love of teaching. She loved her hme and family. "She also loved her school family," Fletcher said. "She was not only passionate about life but she was passionate about people. Every child that walked in that school door was one of hers."

Danielson said she felt especially honored to win the award because Lou Ann Morgan had been her mentor when she was a young teacher.

"I got to see her every week interact with my first graders," she said. "It gave me a strong background in what I needed to do to make my first graders successful." The word legacy came to her mind when she thought of Morgan. "It's said that words can be written on a tombstone but legacy is etched in the hearts that you touch."

Danielson thanked her children for accepting the fact that they have to share their mom with hundreds of other kids who are always under 13 years old.

"They know that when I leave school, I don't leave my kids there," she said. "I take them home with me and they are in my heart and in my thoughts."

After congratulating the 64 male and female athletes who were honored as Kiwanis All-Stars, Henderson County schools Superintendent Bo Caldwell asked them to go back to their schools and do one thing.

"Take a pencil and piece of paper and write a note to a teacher or coach that has meant something to you," he said — and not by text, tweet or Snapchat photo. "You take a pencil and a piece of paper and say thank you for the time you took and what you meant to me through my high school career. In the short time it will take you to do it, multiply that by a hundred times and that's what it will mean to that teacher or coach."