Sunshine Scholarship awarded to Owen athletes

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Connie "Sunshine" Knight, middle, awards scholarship money to Caitlyn Ledford and Kaleb Woods at the Black Mountain Golf Course on March 20.

A scholarship brightened the day for a pair of Owen High School athletes on March 20.

Kaleb Woods and Caitlyn Ledford were the recipients of this year’s Sunshine Scholarship, which has been given to athletes from the school every year since 2013.

The scholarship is named in honor of Connie “Sunshine” Knight, the wife of former Owen High School golf coach John Knight. The funds are raised annually by the Owen Golf Team Tournament, which is held at the Black Mountain Golf Course.

The tournament began in 1996 as a way to raise money for the school’s golf teams, which John coached until his retirement in 2013 when Sunshine was diagnosed with breast cancer. John decided he would continue to host the tournament after his retirement and raise money to help Owen golfers pay for college. He created the Sunshine Scholarship.

The Knights have presented Owen golfers with checks every year since. This year, however, the school is not fielding a boys or girls golf team, so Knight allowed any Owen athletes to apply.

Ledford, a three-sport athlete at Owen, and Woods, who plays two sports for the Warhorses, were selected from the pool of entrants. Each of them received $1,400 to go toward expenses related to college. 

Ledford has played varsity volleyball, basketball and softball since her freshman year. She plans to attend Western Carolina University when she graduates in June. 

"I'll be attending nursing school," she said last week after receiving the funds from the Knights at the Black Mountain Golf Course. "I really like helping people, and I've already worked to get my (Certified Nursing Assistant) license. I like being around people, and nursing gives me a chance to do that while helping them get better."

Woods will attend Brevard College where he has committed to continue his football career for the Tornados. He will pursue a career in law enforcement. 

"I'm planning on majoring in forensic science and minoring in digital forensics," he said. "I'd like to work for the F.B.I. one day."

Woods described the scholarship as a "blessing."

"Nothing is free, so every little bit helps out," he said. "Out of everyone that could've received this I was picked, and I'm grateful for that."

With slightly more than two months left before the end of their senior year, Woods and Ledford are eager to start college. 

This year's golf tournament was supported by sponsorships and donations from local businesses, according to John. More than 100 golfers participated. 

"A lot of area businesses donated items for the raffle," he said. "This event gets great support from the community every year."

He said it "feels like Christmas" when he can put money in the hands of students to help with college expenses. 

For Sunshine, it makes her feel good to establish a legacy of giving. 

"Since I've had cancer, should it ever come back and I'm not here one day, this scholarship will go on," she said. "It makes me happy to be able to see it and enjoy it now, though."