If there was a definition for the ultimate Cavalier fan, it would probably just be a picture of Karen Waldrop. Known to family and friends as simply “Nana,” she has long been a constant presence at all of her grandchildren’s sporting events. (Five of her seven grandkids are CCES alumni or current students.) Rain or shine, sweltering or freezing, home or away, Karen can be found cheering from the stands, sidelines, or bleachers. But her enthusiasm and support doesn’t stop there. In fact, she makes it a point to go to as many CCES games as possible, even when her grandkids are not directly involved.
Her three children – two of whom are current CCES parents, Michael Waldrop and Suzanne Sanders – attended JL Mann, and Karen was a staple at all their events. While Karen originally knew CCES as one of Mann’s “rival school,” she quickly became all-in for the Cavs once her oldest grandchild, Jack Sanders ’18, started Primer in 2005. Karen loved CCES from the start, specifically mentioning the special environment and the “Christian root system.” She started attending football games early on and then expanded to other sports as her grandchildren grew old enough to participate. Karen estimates she has followed more than 15 Cavalier teams over the years! Karen’s loyalty doesn’t stop at just attending CCES events, she also makes it a point to be present at her granddaughter, Dowlen’s (her son Ray’s daughter), gymnastics and dance recitals – if you need Nana, just check the front row! And certainly, when her youngest grandson Hunter is old enough to participate, Nana will be his biggest fan to.
For Karen’s five CCES grandkids, it means the world to them to have Nana in the stands, always cheering them on. It encourages them, it motivates them, and it lifts their spirits knowing that, win or lose, she’ll be there waiting with a smile and a hug. John Waldrop ’26 shares that knowing she is there always pushes him to “play 110 percent every second” he is in the game. Chip Waldrop ’23 always looks forward to seeing her after his soccer games when they walk back to her car together and recap the highlights and, sometimes, the not-so-great moments. He says that during those times, she gives “nothing but words of encouragement” which he describes as “extremely special.” Mac Sanders ’21 says, “There is no better feeling than knowing that there will always be someone behind me and rooting for me as I play every game.” Mac notes that Nana has a handheld video camera that she uses to film as many games as she can, and he looks forward to “reliving those moments” with her in the future.
The oldest two grandkids – Jack and Hailey Sanders ’19 – have both graduated from CCES but fondly recall their days as Cavaliers with Nana always in attendance. They both recall the video recorder that Jack says has captured “countless moments” over the course of their lives. A memory that sticks out to Hailey is her freshman year on the Varsity Basketball team. They made the state championship in Columbia, and even though Hailey had warned Nana she likely wouldn’t get any playing time, Karen made the two-hour drive to cheer the team on. When Hailey was a senior, she was a captain on the Varsity Lacrosse team, which made it to State as well. Karen was in Charleston for the semi-finals, made the drive to Columbia for the championship game, and then came back to Greenville for prom pictures that same evening. Despite the loss at state, it was a fun to have Nana there for it all.
What stands out to Jack is that Nana “never complains” about the drives or the weather because she simply “just loves to be out there” cheering for everyone. He always looked forward to seeing her after games, “giving her a big hug and thanking her” for being there. Jack is currently at Wake Forest University where he plays club lacrosse and of course, Karen has been to some of his games. He says: “To think that she is willing to make the drive from Greenville to Winston-Salem just for a small lacrosse game is incredible, it really shows how much she cares.”
Suzanne has cherished watching Nana support her grandkids. She shares that no field or stand would look the same without her and that when it comes to the CCES schedules, Karen often knows them better than they do! Karen is known for being extremely educated when it comes to sports, and if she doesn’t know, she asks questions until she does. According to Suzanne, her favorite quote during basketball games is “Use the backboard,” which of course, is great advice!
Eugenia Waldrop, Karen’s daughter-in-law (and CCES 1st Grade Teacher), calls Nana a “constant” and says they are all so blessed to be on the receiving end of her love and loyalty. Some of her favorite memories include sitting in the car together and chatting while watching Chip’s soccer games on cold and rainy days. Eugenia shares that when John played little league baseball, Nana had a seat “right against the fence” where her cheers of encouragement were heard loud and clear! During church basketball, even officials knew her and would come say hi after games.
Karen’s consistent presence is inspiring to all -- other teammates and coaches have seen the impact it has on themselves and their teams. Molly Miller, Athletic Director and Varsity Girls Lacrosse Head Coach, calls Karen “a valued member of the Cavalier family.” She notes that Karen is at the “top of the list” when thinking about CCES #1 fans, because of her presence at games, her constant support, and her encouragement, not just at events, but on social media too! Joe Cummings, Varsity Boys Lacrosse Head Coach calls Karen “the best” and the “ultimate Cavalier cheerleader.” She was a big lacrosse supporter when Jack and Hailey were on the teams, and even now, you can find her at the occasional game, cheering on the Cavs!
Karen’s general enthusiasm for athletics stems from her love of competition and her love of people. She shares: “Team sports excite me! I love to see all players develop their skills, improve their abilities, play hard, and do their best for themselves, their teams, and their coaches.” Karen loves big and cheers hard and not just for her grandkids, but for everyone! Jack remembers “countless occasions” where Nana would mention going to a CCES play or sporting event on her own, just to support the Cavaliers. Eugenia says Karen is passionate about “every CCES student,” not just her own grandchildren. “She truly finds joy when any CCES student, thespian, artist, scientist, musician, or team succeeds.”
Everyone is quick to point out that Nana’s constant presence at games is truly just a by-product of who she is as a person. Her family describes her as loyal, loving, positive, strong, giving, and dependable and having the biggest heart. Suzanne shares that Karen’s faith is very important to her and that she “covers them in prayer” every single day. The grandkids all described Nana as extremely influential in their lives and say they will always cherish any time they get to spend with her. Jack calls her “the glue that holds the family together,” and John says, “I don’t know who I would be without her.”
Karen Waldrop is a loving grandmother, enthusiastic fan, and consistent supporter. While she started supporting the Cavs because of her family, she holds nothing back when cheering for any and all things at CCES. We’re so blessed to have her in our Cavalier family and know we can always count on seeing her at games.
Eugenia sums up this amazing member of our community when she says, “If we could all be a little more like Nana… wow, what a world this would be!”