Legendary UNC basketball player Phil Ford was in Sanford Thursday night, accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce that puts him in the ranks of fellow North Carolina natives Charlie Daniels, Jim Hunt and Richard Petty.
Ford said he was as honored by the award as he was by his Olympic gold medal, his NBA Rookie of the Year and the NCAA National Championship ring he won as a coach. That's because it has come later in life and is for what he has done throughout his whole life, both on and off the court.
"This is the first lifetime achievement award I've won, and it means more to me than any other award I've won because by this point in my life, I've had struggles as well as successes," Ford, who has published a children's book and started a charity foundation while continuing to work at UNC-Chapel Hill in the athletics department, said at Thursday night's Small Business Banquet.
Ford's foundation works with experts at UNC Hospitals to combat childhood obesity, a problem he said he first noticed while running basketball camps but didn't realize the scope of until he did some research — and subsequently founded his foundation, to which his $1,000 award was donated on Thursday.
"If we don't reduce this trend, this will be the first generation of kids to not outlive their parents," he said.
Chamber of Commerce President Bob Joyce said Ford also can show the local business community about the importance of taking risks. As a high school senior, Ford was being courted by both UNC and N.C. State, who had just won the national championship. He chose UNC and went on to lead his team to improbable victories over the Wolfpack, and the rest is history.
"Before he arrived at Carolina, the Wolfpack had beaten the Heels nine straight times," Joyce said.
More locally, the chamber named Carol Michael Yarborough Sr. — of Yarborough's Homemade Ice Cream fame — the Small Business Person of the year.
Yarborough's son Michael presented the award to his dad, saying he "has always given countless donations — and ice cream — to anyone who comes into his business with a need."
The elder Yarborough said he was only sorry his wife had chosen to stay home on the night of the banquet.
"She is my love, my roommate and my partner," he said. "And she is the biggest part of anything I've ever done."
That's quite a long list for the longtime businessman, Joyce said.
"The Yarborough family of course helped build this community," Joyce said.
Finally, they named me, Sanford Herald business reporter Will Doran, as the Small Business Advocate of the Year. I'm still sure I don't deserve it, and I can't give you any quotes from my speech because I don't remember it. I only found out when the far more accomplished person presenting the award, Kelly Klug (a previous awardee herself), called my name.
But since I'm advocating business in the community, here are a few things Joyce and his boss, Chamber of Commerce board of trustees chairman Brad Simpson, had to say about Sanford:
* The merger between the chamber and the Economic Development Corporation, into the new Sanford-Lee County Partnership for Prosperity, is going swimmingly.
"We've made tremendous progress in the past few months," Simpson said.
* The merger should have a new CEO hired in 60 days, and they're nearly halfway to the $1 million fundraising goal for the new partnership.
* Central Carolina Hospital showed off new CEO David Loving, who replaced Doug Doris. The hospital also is reportedly the largest single donor so far to the new Partnership for Prosperity.