Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Whew, that went well

Sometimes, a minor miracle can pop up when you least expect it.

That's usually about the time you need one the most.

Ours happened Saturday night during the 14th annual Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the J. Smith Young YMCA.

I say "ours" because I am one of 10 board of directors for the nonprofit organization, which was created in 2002 by indefatigable chairman Jim Lippard.

We usually begin plans for our annual induction ceremony sometime late in July of each year in order to give us adequate time to produce the actual gala, always held on the third Saturday of October.

This year, because both Lippard and his wife, Ann, were dealing with health issues, we didn't get started until late August. So there it is: we basically cut off a month of our preparation time. That may not sound like a big deal, but when you have to pick six or seven inductees, contact them, mail out biographical information forms, hope we get them back in time, write up biographies for the brochure, generate some sponsorship and anything else that creates the necessary background noise for a function like this, time is of the essence.

This year, our inductees were former Carolina Panthers fullback and Ledford star Brad Hoover; former Ledford and East Davidson wrestling coach Bobby House; current Central Davidson wrestling coach Jay Lineberry, former Thomasville and University of North Carolina linebacker Kerry Mock; Paralympian swimmer Jan Wilson (her right leg was amputated when she was 20), and posthumous inductee George Mauney.

On top of that, we were trying something new this year: recognizing the Unsung Hero, basically somebody who works devotedly behind the scenes in a community's athletic endeavor. Our inaugural recipient was iconic Thomasville booster Warren King.

Saturday night arrived, and the first thing I learned was that Wilson, who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, was unable to attend because of hip surgery. Uh-oh. Disaster was lurking.

Then the ceremonies began. Hoover told us how much he appreciated being recognized by his own community; House and Lineberry — both of whom were inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame earlier this year — expressed similar sentiments; Mock became personal, humbly thanking his family for his success.

Then it was Wilson's turn. The emergency plan would have been for emcee Lee Jessup to read her biography from the brochure, express regrets that she couldn't be here, and move on.

But Lippard had a better idea: he got out his iPhone and gave Wilson a call. In Colorado. After more than a few interminable rings, she answered. Whew. We had a connection. Jessup read her biography, and then Wilson responded — eloquently — for a few minutes as Lippard held the phone to the podium mic for all to hear.

It was an astonishingly moving moment.

And the moment continued.

When the board decided to induct Mauney, we originally thought there were no surviving family members in the area to accept his award. Fortunately, we were wrong. Betty Mauney Perryman, Mauney's grand niece, stepped up to the podium and offered several fond memories of her great uncle.

And then King was next. He's a septuagenarian with his own life challenges, and I wasn't sure what to expect. As a sexagenarian myself (hey, look it up), I should have known better. King walked to the podium, stood with his hands behind his back, and delivered — without notes — a brief, heartfelt thank you capped by a raucous "Go Bulldogs!" that nearly brought the house down. He was the public speaker I always wished I was.

Lippard himself was surprised by being presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine (see here), which only made the evening nothing less than perfect.

I feel like we sneaked by with one on Saturday. I think you are allotted only so many miracles — minor, or otherwise — before the sell-by date expires.

I just hope, as a board, we don't decide to hold our first meeting in September next year.

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