Whitehall Soccer’s Mia Due killed in car money is honored by her team
The Whitehall girls’ football team took a ‘Minute for Mia’ break on Monday morning ahead of their first official training of the 2022 autumn season.
Coach Chris Bleam said the Zephyrs plan to set aside 60 seconds each day together to celebrate Mia Grace Due, to share memories of her life and to keep her family in their thoughts.
It has been an unimaginable and heartbreaking two weeks for the Whitehall team, community, family and friends of Due, 16, the junior from Whitehall who lost her life in a horrific crash involving an SUV and a motorbike .
Due was a passenger in the SUV when a motorcycle rammed it on MacArthur and Mechanicsville Roads on July 31. Due and the motorcycle driver were killed.
A daily commemorative minute is one of the ways the soccer program plans to honor his popular teammate.
But, Due’s reminders are constant.
Senior Aubrey Vivian said she always thinks of her closest friend, especially Due’s compassion, her unique laugh and their mutual love of Disney films.
“Mia was the most caring person I have ever met,” Vivian said. “Mia was the first person to ask you if you were okay. She had the funniest laugh; it was kind of a cough and sniffle combined. I loved hearing her talk about Capybaras and boys. She had her weird habits, like drinking only hot drinks, but that’s what you’d like about her.
“I have known Mia for 10 years. We met when we signed up for Tri-Boro soccer. I was playing four squares and noticed her sitting under a tree, so I asked her to join us.
That encounter turned into a beautiful, lasting friendship, Vivian said. It was strengthened – and sometimes tested – by their love of the sport. Due and Vivian played club and high school football, basketball, and softball together.
Vivian’s father, Jeff, is the varsity softball coach at Whitehall.
The girls were best friends and their families became extremely close. Vivian was asked to stand in the receiving line at the funeral with the rest of the Due family.
“The Dues contacted me to make sure I was okay, which shows what a great family they are,” Vivian said. “They asked me to be online with the family for many reasons, some of which I just can’t talk about now because it’s still too raw. But it was their way of wanting to start healing together.
Vivian and senior Bella Fonzone said the football team is looking forward to getting back on the pitch this season. Coaches and players practiced frequently over the summer.
Whitehall opens its season on August 29 against defending champions Central Catholic. The Zephyrs are expected to be a contender for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and earn District 11 playoff spots this season.
They will miss their teammate off the pitch and their impact on the pitch.
Due, described by Fonzone as small but brave and an aggressive defender. She had been an outdoor beginner since her freshman year. His two older sisters, Maggie and Cassie Due, were starters in Whitehall and valuable contributors to their teams. Maggie graduated in 2016; Cassie in 2020.
“It’s going to be a very difficult and different season with the loss of Mia,” Fonzone said. “The season is going to be an emotional rollercoaster, but like her dad Chris told us, ‘Play your heart out on the court. That’s what Mia would have wanted.’”
In addition to his love of football, Due also enjoyed working at Aerie in the Lehigh Valley Mall. She was an excellent student and was involved with clubs such as Interact, Serve, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Zephyr Nation.
Football coaches and players rallied together, as did the Whitehall school community.
Due’s cousin, Ethan Shuttleworth, started a GoFundMe fundraiser in his name and the total amount raised last Friday exceeded $37,000. Due’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mia Due Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Whitehall sporting director Bob Hartman said he was not surprised by the outpouring of love and support for the Due family. He also praised Mia’s parents, Christopher and Michele, as loyal contributors to the school community.
“Mia, her sisters and her parents are stars as people. A fantastic family,” Hartman said. “Very affectionate, very kind and respectful. Their reach in Whitehall goes far beyond women’s football, as was evident [at the funeral] ... Our Whitehall family will always have a special place for Mia and the Due family.
“If there’s one thing in my career that has always stood out to me, it’s that Whitehall is a phenomenal community with strong, hardworking and dedicated people who genuinely care about each other. We use #zephyrtough as a mantra but it’s a real thing, something we’re proud of.
Hartman and Whitehall football seniors Fonzone and Vivian have praised their veteran coach’s efforts to keep them together during this tragedy.
Bleam, the winningest coach in Lehigh Valley football history, said he learned of the evening crash less than an hour after it happened. He immediately sent a group text message to his team.
“We normally meet at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays for fitness and strength training sessions, so I sent a message to our players that we would keep this meeting going,” Bleam said. “We didn’t exercise, but we got together as a family and shared thoughts and memories. Members of the Whitehall administration and advisory service were also present.
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“I also invited our recent grads…I was so grateful that Cassie and Maggie joined us, along with Mia’s aunt.” There was certainly a lot of love present that morning.
Bleam was asked if recent team gatherings have been therapeutic for his players.
“Not sure,” he said, “but what I do know is that love is therapeutic and the love our team has shown for each other and for the Due family has made even more proud of the people they are.”
The memories shared daily during “Minute for Mia” are what coaches and players of Zephyr 2022 will cherish.
And there are very personal and very special ones, Vivian said.
“Secrets and inside jokes, I want to keep them as long as possible. We talked about them as ways to keep Mia alive,” Vivian said. “Mia had this obsession with Paris Hilton, and the word ‘sliving’ and size jokes; those are some of the little things that made us laugh. And his laugh was unforgettable.
Michael Blouse is a freelance writer for The Morning Call.