Employee of the Year

At the Town of Kernersville Employee of the Year Awards Banquet on March 2, Kernersville Police Department Detective Dave Mundy was awarded the Kernersville 2022 Employee of the Year Award.
“This employee has worked hard; he has worked very hard throughout their career to advance as well as establish a solid track record of selfless service to the community,” Town Manager Curtis Swisher said before presenting the award. “Throughout the years, this nominee has dedicated countless hours to serve and improve services resulting in the greater quality of life for Kernersville residents and patrons alike.”
Mundy’s compassion, empathetic attitude and the need to consistently deliver high quality service to the community is why he was bestowed this award. Not only that, but he is a team player and is always willing to help others no matter the cost, Swisher said.
“They ensure the safety and well being of the public as their highest priority,” he said. “During the year they have consistently been tasked a new technology to assist in job related functions to enhance operational readiness of the organization. They display a teamwork style attitude. They are always willing to help others and express to others about the importance of being a team player. And everything is done with hard work and compassion. This nominee consistently drives for self-improvement and makes a positive difference in the workplace. As a team member they serve with compassion and empathy. More importantly, it is the consistency and dedication this person displays and the performance of their day-to-day job along with forward thinking ideas that have earned them this nomination.”
In Swisher’s speech, he explained that two words were uttered from Mundy that helped start and improve services in the community. Those two words were, “What if.”
“Soon this idea was a proven collaborative effort. The entire county joined seven organizations together in a unified effort to solve a common problem,” Swisher said. “The sole critic for this program rests on this employee and their pursuit of a ‘what if.’ This nominee credits everyone involved, shying away from individuality, and spotlighting all that touched this product to enhance and improve the quality of life for the citizens for Forsyth County.
“As a process, from an idea to reality materialized in 2022 this employee was given the freedom to pursue the necessary means to create and introduce this project that first responders across Forsyth County can use to improve quality of life for individuals and families alike. Out of this, the program Forsyth Cares was started. This forward thinking has served this employee well throughout the years, earning them a positive reputation sought out by others and problem solvers in the organization.”
Mundy has worked for the Town of Kernersville for 15 years and is currently working in the Criminal Investigations Department. He has worked in various departments, including patrol, K-9 and narcotics.
“I didn’t really expect (the award), that’s not why I’ve tried so hard at my job. It’s not for the awards,” Mundy said. “I was a little taken back. It is a big honor. I almost feel like I have to work harder to hold myself accountable to be on that list. It’s not a super long one. It’s a good town to work for and always has been.”
One big project that Mundy has been working on and was an influential factor to his nomination was his work on the Forsyth Cares project for two years. This project is similar to Ident-A-Kid but with the sole purpose to be used for everyone, no matter what age.
The project became live in December 2022 and is used to help access more information about you and your loved ones. The digital version geotags a point at a person’s house and creates a dashboard with five emergency contacts, medication history, personal descriptors and current photo. This information would be used in case of an emergency and all Forsyth County emergency responders have access to this information if people have signed up for it.
All information stays up-to-date by automatically making individuals resubmit information every two years to ensure everything is current. The only requirement to be eligible for this program is to be a Forsyth County resident or be within a close enough area that Forsyth County first responders go into for calls.
For more information about the Forsyth Cares program, go to https://forsyth.cc/forsythcares/.
Mundy was also awarded with a $300 check and five vacation days along with his Employee of the Year Award.
The four other finalists for this award were Rebekah East, Jimmy Moore, Michelle Nelson and Dempsey Shelton, who each received one vacation day.

John & Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center

The Körner’s Folly Foundation and the Town of Kernersville broke ground on the site of the new Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly, located at 411 South Main Street, on Saturday, February 25.
“I thought it went well really well. It was bit of a threatening situation with the weather, but it all worked out. We were very happy to welcome our donors, supporters, well-wishers, Forsyth County Board members and representatives from Town and county government,” said Körner’s Folly Executive Director Suzanna Ritz Malliett.
The site is adjacent to the historic house built in 1880 by visionary artist and designer Jule Gilmer Körner. The Visitors Center will function as a community gathering space, providing improved amenities and increased accessibility for visitors to Körner’s Folly.
Over the past decade, increased visitation to the historic house museum, rising demand for educational programming, and the limits of the space currently in use by the Körner’s Folly Foundation’s operations have necessitated investment in a facility expansion.
A new facility will allow the Körner’s Folly Foundation to grow sustainably and serve a wider audience in more meaningful ways, while continuing to support and enhance the organizations, businesses, and individuals that make Kernersville a great place to live and work. The Visitors Center will provide a central point for delivery of tourism information, include rotating exhibition space for historical artifacts, flexible meeting and program space, public restrooms, a media room, increased office space, collections artifact storage, a gift shop, and paved parking for tour buses and cars. The center will allow for more diverse programming and will improve access for persons with disabilities.
Construction on the new building will take approximately 10 months. The Körner’s Folly Foundation anticipates being operational in the new facility within the next year. Winston-Salem-based firm West and Stem Architects PLLC has provided design services, and construction will be completed by Wilson-Covington Construction Company.
The Visitors Center groundbreaking is the result of a capital campaign conducted by the Körner’s Folly Foundation. The Foundation engaged professional campaign consultants, including CapDev in Winston-Salem. The campaign has been successful in securing funding for the Visitors Center as well as a sustainability fund to support maintenance of the new facility and continued restoration of the 22-room historic house museum.
In 2019, the Town of Kernersville and the Körner’s Folly Foundation established a public-private partnership to enable development of the new Visitors Center. The Town committed funding of $750,000, to be fulfilled contingent upon the Körner’s Folly Foundation raising the remaining funds required to complete construction on the multi-million-dollar project. The State of North Carolina and Forsyth County have also supported this effort. Funding resulting from the Foundation’s capital campaign was secured in part via grants from local and state foundations, including the BB&T/Truist Foundation, Marion Stedman Covington Foundation, the Kernersville Foundation, the Lawrence E. & Etta Lea Pope Foundation, the Lib Burns Trust, the Richard & Marie Reynolds Foundation, the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Winston-Salem Foundation, the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, and the Kernersville Historic Preservation Society.
Generous gifts from private donors and local businesses also played a significant role in achieving campaign fundraising goals. As part of the groundbreaking ceremonies, the Körner’s Folly Foundation has announced that the Visitors Center will be named in honor of John and Bobbie Wolfe; hereafter, referred to as the John and Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly. The naming is in honor of the notable impact that the couple has had on the organization through many decades. The Wolfes were one of the families who stepped in to “save” Körner’s Folly from destruction in the 1970s, and they both have served in many critical volunteer capacities since to ensure the preservation of the house museum for the enjoyment of the public.
“The vision of the Körner’s Folly Foundation is to be a place of connection between the past and the future, and to help people connect with one another,” said Malliett. “We are thrilled to begin construction on this long-awaited project that will help the organization further our strategic goals of widening access and deepening connection to this valuable historical and cultural resource, while also contributing significantly to local economic development.”
The fundraising campaign for the John and Bobbie Wolfe Visitors Center at Körner’s Folly continues, with donations supporting programming and operations at the center. Gifts are tax deductible. More information at www.kornersfolly.org/donate.

Samantha Kiger returns home

Samantha Kiger was only eight years old when she was diagnosed and hospitalized due to flu A, which then progressed to pneumonia in only a few days. After 112 days in the hospital, she was finally able to go home.
“On October 24 she was diagnosed with flu (A) at eight years old,” Samantha’s cousin Brandi Pettus said. “She was a healthy, active eight-year-old. And then a couple days later, her mother noticed that she was having problems breathing and she sent her back to the doctor. Then she realized she had developed pneumonia. Not only did she have pneumonia, she had MRSA in her lungs. She went into multi-organ failure. She ended up on life support from it. Her lungs failed, kidney failure and she ended up on ECMO.”
ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. According to Samantha’s GoFundMe page, it is also known as extracorporeal life support. ECMO is a process that assists with heart and lung functions. This helped her blood and blood gasses circulate throughout her body.
Her mother, Amy Kiger, explained that she was at different hospitals during her time recovering.
From Oct. 26 until Dec. 22, she was in the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist – Brenner Children’s Hospital PICU. From Dec. 22 to Jan. 11, she was moved to the Intermediate Care facility at Brenner. Her final transition was to Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte for rehab from Jan. 11 until Feb. 13 when she was finally able to go home for the first time.
Along with her recovery and procedures, on Jan. 17, Samantha had to have emergency bronchoscopy.
“She was having trouble breathing and they had to they put a scope down her trach to see what was blocking it. They called it a crust, a hard chunk of mucus and blood was blocking her airway and she couldn’t breathe, so they had to take her into the emergency room and pull it out,” Amy Kiger said. “She had to have that done three times. It’s not normal.”
During those 112 days, she spent every holiday in the hospital, her mother said. Throughout her time in the hospital, she coined the nickname Super Sammy for her strength and resilience.
“She’s doing really good,” Amy Kiger said. “Just being able to be free to do whatever she wants, up in her bedroom playing with all her toys, holding her bunny rabbit, playing with her dog. We were thrilled. Where she needs to be is at home.”
Pettus explained that during this time there was a family group chat that was always keeping the family up to date on Samantha’s condition and how she was doing. Now that she is home, she heard that Samantha has most enjoyed being outside again.
While in the hospital, Samantha was able to keep up with her schoolwork in order to keep her on track in Mrs. Wise’s second grade class.
“She [Samantha] actually wanted to make sure that she doesn’t get held back, so she asked for her schoolwork while she was in the PICU. Her teacher actually came to the hospital and has been giving us work for her to work on,” Kiger said. “They have already decided that she will not be held back this year.”
When they found out that Samantha was going to be sent home at the beginning of February, the family began planning a surprise that will take place on Sat., Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.
Her family has organized a drive-by parade that will start at Piney Grove Elementary School and go all the way to her house. Samantha has no idea about the parade.
The parade will consist of the Kernersville Jeep Night Club, Team Patients, Kernersville Police Department and Kernersville Fire Rescue Department. They plan to have over 60 vehicles in the parade to celebrate Samantha.
“All of the family got together and started organizing it,” Pettus said. “We just want to show the love because she is a warrior and a fighter.”
Despite being home, Samantha is still having to use a tracheostomy tube, sometimes referred to as trach, in order to breath fully. She is currently on a ventilator at night but is hooked up to the lowest oxygen setting.
Kiger is hopeful that Samantha will not have to use the trach much longer and that at her next appointment checkup, they will give her a timeframe for when she is able to get the trach taken out.
Although she was a healthy eight-year-old before being diagnosed with the flu, Samantha’s doctors were not able to explain why the sudden progression of her symptoms got so bad, so fast. She was the only one in her family to be diagnosed with the flu.
The family would like to make a big shoutout to the Kernersville community, Piney Grove Elementary School, Kernersville Middle School, local churches and friends including: Sarah Soloman, Jennifer Cassell, Mattie Neese, and Christine Defendorf.
They all want to thank each person who prayed, shared her story or was just thinking about the family during this time.
To learn more about Samantha or donate to her GoFundMe page, visit www.gofundme.com/f/the-kiger-family-samantha-kiger.

Civitan Park

Kernersville Parks & Recreation Director Ernie Pages updated the Kernersville Board of Aldermen (BOA) on the status of the substantial renovations at Civitan Park at Tuesday’s BOA meeting at the Kernersville Municipal Chambers.
Once the renovations are completed, the new Civitan Park will be a significant upgrade of the old Civitan Park. The park previously had two basketball courts, a ball field (softball/baseball), horseshoe pits, a sand volleyball court and space for other activities. The new plan includes a redesigned walking trail and ballfield, four tennis courts, three pickleball courts, a basketball court, two shelters, a 40-yard dash with additional challenge course, a fitness court sponsored by Novant Health and a high-tech Sona Play Arch.
“We have made pretty good progress starting in August of last year. Right now, the park is sitting between 60-65 percent complete. Once we hit 80 percent completion, we can start applying for reimbursements from grants we received for the project,” Pages said.
Some aspects of the renovation are farther along than others.
Pages said the Novant Health Fitness Court is 100 percent complete and progress has been made on the parking lot expansion. The seven movement, seven-minute system provides a full-body workout to people of all ability levels. With over 30 pieces of bodyweight equipment, the fitness court can be used in thousands of ways.
“The parking lot expansion is 60 percent complete. It will be capped with brand new asphalt and will have medians in place for landscaping. It will be seamless and restriped,” said Pages.
Pages said the pickleball, tennis and basketball courts are near completion.
“Of the amenities we have in place, the pickleball and tennis courts and the basketball court are sitting around 80 percent complete. You can see the blacktop, asphalt, the fencing is up and the lights are installed. Now we are going to drill to put up pickleball and tennis nets,” said Pages.
Significant progress has also been made on the two shelters, as well as the baseball/softball field.
“The shelters have been installed and assembled with shingles and concrete slabs. Now it is just a matter of waiting for the ground to dry up, level it off and do our landscaping pieces,” Pages said. “The baseball field is 90 percent complete. We have grass, fencing and we have entryways. Everything is in place. The clay has been leveled out. We just have to put the base anchors (home plate and pitcher’s mound).
There is still a bit of work to do on the challenge course, which will have some American Ninja Warrior elements to it.
“It is about 30 percent complete. The site has been leveled off and graded. We are waiting for the dirt to dry up so we can so do some fittings. With the playgrounds we have there isn’t a lot for children over 10 to do. This will be a little different playground. It will more challenging for older children,” said Pages.
The highest tech aspect of the new Civitan Park will be the Yalp Sona Play Arch, which will have an interesting design, made of thick galvanized steel that makes it highly resistant to vandalism.
“A new company came up with it a couple of years ago. It is a cloud based interactive unit for people of all ages. It interacts and it stimulates stem growth by playing games. You just press a button to play a game. It will interact and play one of 15 games,” Pages said. “You can monitor how many times each game has been played, and you can switch out with 65 other games and keep it fresh. We’re pretty proud to get it. The only other city in North Carolina that has it is Asheville.”
According to the Yalp Sona website, the arch “transcends age, physical and emotional barriers,” and new games are continuously being developed and added.

Work together to create someting beautiful

The current Kernersville Little Theatre (KLT) season is titled, Welcome to the Family. For anyone who has never dabbled in theatre, there’s a sentiment amongst thespians and theatre enthusiasts that once you start, you’ll be stuck for life. It is quite addicting for most and for some, that addiction spreads to others in their families.
Jeff and Melissa Mericle are new to KLT, working off-stage for the theatre’s annual Bring-A-Book-To-Life production, Seussical the Musical. Melissa is directing the show, and Jeff is handling the lighting effects. The Mericles have been married for 32 years, and theatre has played a pivotal role in their relationship.
“We met in 1989 as volunteers for Raleigh Little Theatre. Jeff had been volunteering for a couple of years when I joined. We started dating after a light hang for Cinderella,” Melissa shared, adding, “We have done theatre together for almost all of our 32 years together.”
The couple has two adult daughters – Megan and Mandy – who are also involved with theatre.
While both Jeff and Melissa are theatre aficionados, neither of them acts on stage.
“We either direct, stage manage or do tech,” Melissa noted.
When asked how many shows they have been a part of, Melissa said, “We stopped counting long ago how many shows we’ve done. We probably do at least four shows a year.”
Seussical gives both Melissa and Jeff their favorite roles in theatre as Melissa conveyed that her favorite role to play in theatre is director, with stage manager “a very close second,” while Jeff’s favorite is lighting designer.
With participating so much in the theatre, the Mericles get to spend a lot of time together. “The pros are working together on our passion and spending a lot of time together,” Melissa shared, adding, “The cons are that our house is usually messy and we have become quite adept at saying, ‘We can’t, we have rehearsal.’ Theatre is mine and (Jeff’s) all-consuming hobby.”
Theatre can teach participants many skills, including multi-tasking, working as a team and taking constructive criticism. For the Mericles, theatre has taught them how to tell the story, even being off-stage.
“Remembering to tell the story above all else. Lights, costumes, sound…none of that matters if you don’t tell the story,” Melissa noted.
Melissa encourages everyone to give community theatre a try, especially families.
“Theatre has something for everyone – from being on stage, to musicians, to production team members, backstage, designers – it is truly something where every member of a family can find their passion and all members can work together to create something beautiful. I am thrilled that my partner in life is part of my production team,” she expressed.
Seussical the Musical will open February 24 and runs Friday-Sunday until March 5. Showtimes are 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. Tickets are available online at https://kernersvillelittletheatre.thundertix.com/ or at the door the day of the show. Online tickets are slightly discounted. For more information, visit www.kltheatre.com.

Folly executive director

The Körner’s Folly Foundation has selected Suzanna Ritz Malliett as their new executive director after Dale Pennington announced that she was stepping down from the position in early December 2022.
Malliet is from Greensboro and has been working at Körner’s Folly as their operations & programs manager since 2018.
“My initial reaction was excitement for the opportunity to be a part of the Folly’s next chapter,” she said. “I also felt very grateful for the confidence and the trust that the Board of Directors has placed in me, as well as humbled by the incredible work that has been done by previous directors, staff, volunteers and citizens.”
Malliet is currently in the transition phase of taking on this new role.
“Dale Pennington, the outgoing executive director, did an excellent job preparing for the new hire” Malliet said. “I cannot say for certain exactly how long the transition phase will last, but I am looking forward to finding a new operations & programs manager as soon as possible to help the Foundation prepare for a busy year ahead.”
One specific vision that she has as the new executive director is to continue the work towards construction of a new Visitors Center, which will be built later this year, Malliet said. The capital campaign for this project began in 2018.
“As the new executive director, it’s important that my vision aligns with that of the organization, which is to be a place of connection between the past and the future, between the arts and industry, and among people who share a common appreciation for new ways of thinking,” Malliet said. “My personal vision is also in alignment with the Foundation’s strategic plan. This plan addresses the need for increased accessibility to the historic house for people with disabilities, to develop opportunities for deeper engagement with local history, and to keep growing in a sustainable way.”
Malliet obtained her bachelors degree in history for Salem University and then her masters degree in arts administration from the University of New Orleans. She has experience at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, MUSE Winston-Salem and a museum educator for the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.
What intrigued Malliet most about Körner’s Folly was the architecture of the house.
“I think that the unusual architecture of the historic house itself drew me in initially,” she said. “Jule Körner’s vision of providing world-class interior design in what was back then a small town really helped people access newly-available goods and services during the Victorian era, as well as new ways of thinking and creating.”
Körner’s Folly is important to Kernersville because many people who live in Kernersville value the historic home and legacy, she said.
“The fact that the citizens of Kernersville have come together to first save from demolition, then protect, and finally, restore and open this remarkable historic house to the public is an inspiration to me,” Malliet said. “From my formal and informal conversations with visitors and program participants at Körner’s Folly, it is clear that many people value the home’s interpretation of local history and the arts, its unique position as a landmark for Kernersville, and their own experiences of the whimsical structure itself. The reputation of hospitality that Jule and his wife Polly Alice originally created in their home is an important legacy that serves as a guidepost for all the organization’s activities today.”
Although Körner’s Folly is an important economic resource for Kernersville that brings people from out of town to visit the notable home, it is also an important leaning opportunity, she said.
“I believe that the Körner’s Folly Foundation provides valuable access to information at the intersection of history and the arts, and helps people of all ages understand how much can change over time, while some things remain surprisingly consistent,” Malliet explained.
For 2023, the Körner’s Folly Foundation has many events planned, including Victorian Valentine’s Day on Feb. 11, Homeschool Day on March 6, the 5th annual Spring Vintage Market on March 25 and Girl Scout Day: Patch Party on April 22.
For more information about Malliet, events or to request a visit, go to kornersfolly.org.

Literacy Book Display Case

Kernersville Elementary School (KES) is the recipient of the first Literacy Book Display Case placed at an elementary school in our community. The display case is a partnership of KES and the Kiwanis Club of Kernersville. It blends the mutual desire of the Kiwanis Club and KES to enhance children’s passion for reading. In addition, it supports student attendance and positive attitude as a means to help children excel. Fran Little, Kiwanis Club’s Literacy Initiative chairperson, said, “Kiwanis has set youth literacy as an important goal for the club to address. The club recently provided free children’s books at various community events to encourage reading at the elementary school level.”
Faculty at KES will identify students who exhibit excellent classroom behavior each quarter. Selecting a book will be a tangible reward for students identified as Cape Crusaders by their teachers. Students selected to receive books exemplify the Cape Crusader qualities: “Be Happy, Be Kind, Be Wildcats at Heart, and make today amazing.” Students who qualify for the HERO recognition at the school can also select a free book. HERO is an acronym for students who are Here, Everyday, Ready, and On-time to learn.
Jay Cene, Kiwanis Club president, said, “The Kiwanis Club is happy to donate books that support the school’s behavior and attendance objectives.”
Peggy Norris, the school’s media coordinator, suggested specific books that would appeal to each grade level. The Kiwanis Club of Kernersville purchased the books for the display case and also received support from Friends of the Kernersville Library to fulfill the remaining books needed to initially stock the bookcase for the school year. Principal Teresa Rose shared at the ribbon cutting that KES is beyond honored to be the first recipient of the Kiwanis Youth Literacy Book Project.
She stated, “Kernersville Elementary is grateful for the continued support we have received from Kiwanis over the years.”
Rose added, “They are a true example of community leaders taking care of their children and schools in meaningful ways, and KES continues to be an effective school, not only because of our great staff but also because our community village is always there for us.”
The book display case was dedicated on Tuesday, January 24 in a ceremony attended by school officials, Kiwanis Club members, Mayor Dawn Morgan, as well as the builder and artist who constructed the bookcase. The Kiwanis Club would like to express appreciation to Lee Root and Calista Ambrosia for designing and artwork for the display case. The Chamber of Commerce conducted the ribbon cutting.
KES is the pilot project for the literacy initiative bookcase. The Kiwanis Club hopes to develop a similar partnership with other area elementary schools in future academic years. The Kiwanis Club welcomes the involvement of members of the community who are interested in literacy projects. Contributions are welcomed to help restock books and grow the program: Kiwanis Club of Kernersville, PO Box 2384, Kernersville 27285-2384. For more information on the literacy initiative, contact Fran Little at 336-413-8892.

Athletic Hall of Fame

Two basketball and baseball coaches from Kernersville, Roger Nelson and Sandy Gann, were among the 15 inductees of the inaugural Northwest Guilford High School (NWGHS) Athletic Hall of Fame for 2022. Nelson was instrumental in hiring three of the coaches, Sandy Gann, Charlie Groves and Darlene Joyner, and one of the players, John Dixon, who were also inducted into the inaugural Northwest Guilford High School Hall of Fame. The ceremony honoring the inaugural class was held on Jan 20, 2023.
Nelson was born in Kernersville and lived here for 89 years. He was a good athlete and played baseball and football while attending Kernersville High School. He also could have played basketball, but did not due to other concerns.
“Basketball season just happened to be in the same season as rabbit hunting. I did play with the VFW basketball team at night and on weekends. I had other things to do with 14 rabbit dogs during basketball season,” Nelson wrote in his book, “The Adventures of Roger L. Nelson.”
After serving in the Marine Corps, Nelson attended High Point College and, because he attended both winter and summer terms, he graduated in 1958 after only three years of college. His first coaching job was at Germanton School during the last three months of the school year. Nelson had an immediate impact as a coach.
“There were eight more basketball games to play. The boys’ win-loss record was 0-26 for the previous two years. The record for the eight games I coached was 4-4,” Nelson wrote in his book.
The following fall Nelson applied for the coaching job at Colfax School, coaching baseball and the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams. After three seasons at Colfax, the fourth was the charm. The Colfax boys’ 1962 basketball team won the Class 1-A State championship.
With the consolidation of Colfax, Stokesdale and Summerfield schools, Nelson was hired as the head coach of boys’ basketball at NWGHS. He guided the Vikings to four regular season conference championships and three tournament titles. The boys’ team was four-time sectional champions and two-time state runner ups. Nelson guided the Northwest boys’ team to the 1967 Class 3-A State championship. His basketball win/loss record was 240-54. At the time he left teaching and coaching he was considered to be the premier coach in the state by his colleagues. He was named Coach of the Year numerous times in various conferences. The gymnasium at NWGHS is named in his honor.
In 1974, Nelson accepted the position of principal at Northwest Junior High School and from 1980 to 1994, he was the principal at NWGHS. Nelson was also named Principal of the Year during his tenure at NWGHS.
Nelson feels honored to be among the 15 inductees to the Northwest Guilford High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sandy Gann was born in Stokes County in 1944, but his family moved to the Union Cross community of Forsyth County when he was three-years-old.
Gann attended Glenn High School from 1958-1962 where he played varsity basketball and baseball all four years. He enjoyed a very successful high school career as the shortstop, playing every inning of every game for all four years. The highlight of Gann’s high school career came in his senior year (1962). His batting average was .550, which was the highest in the state of North Carolina. Gann was an All-Conference player for three years and was voted to play in the East-West All-Star game in 1962.
After graduation, Gann continued his baseball career at Guilford College. He played second base for the Quakers all four years and led the team in hitting with a .385 mark in his sophomore year and hit the long ball as well as singles. He also led the team in runs batted in. Gann was All-Conference in the Old Carolina’s conference in 1965 and 1966. During his senior year he helped lead his team to a fourth place finish in the NAIA National Baseball Tournament. He was named to the All-Tournament team and set a tournament record with seven straight hits, a national record he held for almost 30 years. Gann earned his bachelor degree from Guilford College and later received his master’s degree from NC A&T University.
For 32 years Gann was the baseball coach at NWGHS and had a 422-248 overall record. His teams captured six conference championships, went to the state playoffs 12 times and his team won the Class 4-A State championship in 1998. This was his favorite coaching experience.
“I announced my retirement early in the season of my final year as head baseball coach. I knew I had a good team, but we struggled during the first part of the season and had to win the conference tournament to make the playoffs,” Gann said. “We won the conference tournament and then won five straight playoff games to advance to the state championship game. We won the state championship by beating Athens Drive in a best-of-three series. Athens Drive had a junior named Josh Hamilton (a five-time MLB All-Star and the 2010 American League MVP) as their star. My oldest son, Sonny, was the pitching coach and my youngest son, John, was the senior shortstop on the team. That tournament was my most memorable coaching experience.”
During his baseball coaching tenure at NWGHS, Gann was named Conference Coach of the Year six times, was named Guilford County Coach of the Year and State Coach of the Year. At the time of his retirement he was the fourth winningest active coach in North Carolina. The NWGHS baseball field was named after him upon his retirement.
As the head basketball coach at Northwest Guilford from 1969 to 1984, Gann won 212 games and claimed four conference championships and five conference tournament titles. He was named Coach of the Year four times within the conference and Guilford County Coach of the Year twice.
Gann credits much of his success to his own coaches.
“I loved playing baseball and basketball, and I was influenced greatly by my high school coach, Jack Musten, and college coach, Stuart Maynard. Both were excellent role models and taught you about life as well as a lot about the sport. They made a tremendous impact on my life and I wanted to impact others like they did me,” Gann said. “I wanted to take each individual player from where he was when he entered our program and assist him in developing to his full potential as a player. When that occurred, that was my most rewarding experience.”
Gann has some advice for beginning coaches and current coaches.
“As a beginning coach, I would try to get on the staff of a proven coach and learn the ins and outs of building and maintaining a quality, successful program. Also, seek out mentors among former successful coaches for their wisdom and expertise. Never stop learning about the game. In addition, be yourself and don’t try to be someone you are not,” Gann said. “I have always believed that the game is created for the kids. People come to watch young men and women play, not to watch me coach, so the focus is on the players. I tell my players to go out there and have fun. If you don’t enjoy playing you should not be out there.”
In addition to his baseball accomplishments, Gann served as the Athletics Director at NWGHS for 22 years. During this time, the school won 10 straight Wachovia Cups.
For performance as a baseball player, coach and contributions to the community, Gann has been inducted into the Guilford College Hall of Fame (1990), Forsyth County Hall of Fame (1994), the N.C. High School Baseball Association Hall of Fame (2014), the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame (2014) and the George Whitfield Baseball Clinic Hall of Fame (2016).

Green Eggs and Slam

Justus Berger is very passionate about promoting reading for children, and he has found a way to have fun and bring some entertainment to people’s lives in the process.
Berger, owner of The School of Reading, will be hosting a Live with Aerostar “Green Eggs and Slam” Lucha Libre Event on Feb. 3 at the Maddawg Center in Kernersville, located at 900 E. Mountain Street. The event will begin at 7 p.m. and is a fundraiser to purchase every first grader at Kernersville Elementary School a copy of the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham.” The event is free for people 17 years of age and younger, and the shows usually last for an hour to an hour and a half.
Berger, a first grade teacher in his fourth year at Kimberley Park Elementary School, started The School of Reading. He was able to combine his passion for promoting reading with his love of wrestling.
“I always wanted to be a promoter. As a 19-year old, I wanted to be a promoter. I just like to have a good time. I like events and I like the fact that I can create something that people look forward to. I have been doing wrestling promotions since 2017, but obviously I had to cancel some of them during Covid. It is not that hard to put the events together, and I have been doing it long enough,” Berger said.
Berger said his love of wrestling started with what many see as traditional pro wrestling, rather than Lucha Libre.
“As a kid I was a big fan of the Rock, but I always knew wrestling was staged. A lot of people didn’t know that back then. My uncle was super enthusiastic about wrestling. He was kind of my redneck uncle my parents tried to keep me away from. But my dad liked it too. He cheered for the heels as a kid back when Chief Wahoo McDaniel was around,” said Berger.
Berger said for the most part the Lucha Libre performers at his shows are between the ages of 18 and 40. The Feb. 3 event will feature Supa Lucha, Aerostar, the Fox and the Grizzly. Berger is expecting to add additional performers between now and the event. Some of the wrestlers Berger has worked with in the past have become very well known.
“I got Sammy Guevara for an event for $300 back at Old Town Elementary in 2018, and we had Brian Cage for one event in 2017. I just saw them and knew they were going to be very good, and they are both on television on All Elite Wrestling,” said Berger.
In 2017, Berger decided he wanted to promote Lucha Libre wrestling events. Lucha Libre translates as “freestyle wrestling” or “free fight” and it is the term used in Latin America for professional wrestling. It was introduced to Mexico in the early 20th century, and it has developed into a unique form of the genre. It is characterized by colorful masks, rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers, and high-flying maneuvers, many of which have been adopted in the United States, Japan, and other nations. The masks have special significance, and matches are sometimes contested in which the loser must permanently remove his mask. Tag team wrestling is especially prevalent in Lucha Libre, particularly matches with three-member teams. Lucha Libre wrestlers are known as luchadores.
Berger is also hosting Lucha Libre events on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 at the Cooks Flea Market, located at 4250 North Patterson Ave. in Winston-Salem. Both events will begin at 1:30 p.m.
“Last year in Kernersville, we canceled an event because we thought too many kids were getting Covid. We wanted to do events outdoors at the flea market. Now they have an indoor area, and that is our home venue for events. Every month we will have an event there,” Berger said.
Back in August, Berger explained that when students read just 20 minutes a day, they learn 10,000 new words a year and are in the 90th percentile of testing.
“That’s the biggest thing that I have seen – test scores,” said Berger. “I had a couple of kids go up a whole grade level and I attribute that to getting kids excited about reading.”
An unfortunate consequence of very low reading levels for young adults is often not pretty, according to Berger.
“I think reading is essential. Having a third grade reading level…that is how prisons are built. It is just that simple. In Winston-Salem and in Forsyth County, you have kids that are not able to read. As a teacher, I think it is because we don’t push the love of reading enough. I certainly do though. You want to get the parents involved and have them promote a love of reading,” said Berger.
As some have said, “If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life,” and that appears to be what Berger is doing. Berger also has bigger long-term goals for The School of Reading.
Berger stated he wants to start his own small private school that would be free to low-income students, provided by fundraising, grants and private donations. He said the school would be for five first grade students, ideally, and feature a new set of students each year.

The Wall That Heals

The Kernersville VFW 5352 will be hosting a special event beginning April 27 and is currently fundraising to pay for this and other community events and charity projects in the coming year.
The Wall That Heals, also known as the Vietnam Moving Wall, will be transported to Kernersville VFW 5352 on April 27 and will remain there through May 1.
On Veterans Day 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) unveiled a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., designed to travel to communities throughout the United States. Since its dedication, The Wall That Heals has been displayed at nearly 700 communities throughout the nation, spreading the memorial’s healing legacy to millions. The Wall That Heals exhibit was on the road for more than 13,000 miles and visited 26 communities from coast to coast during its 2021 season. It was escorted by more than 3,000 vehicles into those communities, and The Wall’s healing legacy was spread to nearly 200,000 visitors. Guided tours of the exhibit were provided to more than 12,000 students.
This is a big event for Kernersville VFW 5352 and it is one they are proud to host.
“It cost $7,000 to have The Wall transported here. Then we will have to build the base, which is 256 feet (127.5 feet by 127.5 feet). It has to be guarded 24 hours a day. We will do some of that with volunteers, but you also have to have law enforcement involved and we’ll start meeting with the KPD (Kernersville Police Department) next week,” said VFW 5352 Commander Josh Hunt. “I think the biggest thing about The Wall coming, the Vietnam vets did not have a welcome home. At the climate of the time they were not welcome. The people confused the government’s action with the people that fought in the war. We have eight members of our post that were Vietnam vets that have not seen it. There are some proud Vietnam vets and some that don’t admit it. Even with the ones that will not admit, they will be there to pay their respects and give themselves closure. It will give them the opportunity to say goodbye in their own way.”
The Wall That Heals has special meaning for Kernersville VFW Quartermaster Steve Amos.
“We are expecting a lot of people here. I have been to The Wall in Washington. I have been there a couple of times during the day and night. It really makes you reflect on things you are thankful for, especially when you see names you know on the wall. Some of them were in aircraft I was in and some of them did not make it back,” Amos said.
The Wall That Heals exhibit features a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The replica is 375 feet in length and stands 7.5 feet high at its tallest point. Visitors experience The Wall rising above them as they walk towards the apex, a key feature of the design of The Wall in D.C.
Like the original memorial, The Wall That Heals is erected in a chevron-shape and visitors can do name rubbings of individual service member’s names on The Wall. The replica is constructed of Avonite, a synthetic granite, and its 140 numbered panels are supported by an aluminum frame. Machine engraving of the more than 58,000 names along with modern LED lighting provide readability of The Wall day and night. As on The Wall, the names on The Wall That Heals are listed by day of casualty. Beginning at the center/apex, the names start on the East Wall (right-hand side) working their way out to the end of that wing, picking up again at the far end of the West Wall (left-hand side) and working their way back into the center/apex, joining the beginning and end of the conflict at the center.
There are also a number of displays that will accompany The Wall That Heals on its journey to Kernersville. These include a Hometown Heroes display. This has photos of service members on The Wall who list their home of record from the local area. The photos are part of The Wall of Faces, an effort to put a face to every name inscribed on The Wall in Washington, D.C. There is also an In Memory Honor Roll display, which honors local Vietnam veterans who returned home and later died.
Hosting The Wall That Heals is going to be the biggest event for Kernersville VFW 5352, but the organization does many things around the local area for veterans and the community in general. The Kernersville VFW 5352 has 203 members that are veterans and 140 auxiliary members who are immediate family members of people that are VFW eligible.
“Our biggest push in the fall was to help homeless veterans. We did a homeless veterans benefit and got shoes, pants and Christmas bags of warm weather gear for 11 veterans. We also got them a hotel so they wouldn’t have to be outside on Christmas. We do Voice of Democracy, which is a scholarship program for high schools where they do speeches and we do Patriots Pen, which is the same thing geared to writing an essay,” said Hunt. “We do a Veterans Day event to honor every vet from World War I to Afghanistan. On 9/11 we did a low country boil and we did a POW/MIA reception to welcome any POWs. We also do a breakfast every Sunday of every month that is open to the public.”
The Kernersville VFW is working on creating a Tiny URL so people that wish to donate can link to the post website. Currently anyone wishing to donate to the Kernersville VFW 5352, located at 618 Edgewood Street, is just asked to drop by. The VFW is open from 1 to 8 p.m. each day.
“Anyone wishing to donate can come by the post and speak to anyone. Right now, we are having raffles. People can go to anyone in the canteen and donate and say what they are wanting to donate to,” Hunt said.