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Another Winning Moment: Dr. Sarah McMurtry

As I learned about Dr. Sarah McMurtry, I reflect on this quote – “What if more of us did that: made up our minds to take the life that we are given and-no matter the fumbles or the fouls-make the most of it and resolve to win?”  Her resolve to win in spite of any obstacle is amazing and I believe after you hear her story you will feel the same…

While her occupation as a licensed psychiatrist is important, it is not the primary label on which she defines herself. It’s one small part of who she is. Dr. Sarah describes herself as a mom first, then a protector and problem solver.

Motherhood has been her greatest gift. While she became a mother at an early age, it was this experience that shaped and molded her into a man and a woman posing for a picturethe woman she is today. Motherhood allowed her to give her heart in a safe way and helped her to love again after heartache. Because she was such a young mom (at the age of 19), Dr. Sarah learned to always do what worked best for her and her daughter even if it was non- traditional. This mindset of taking whatever steps she can take and forging her own way has been applicable in running her business as well.

Dr. Sarah initially chose her occupation due to her training, but also past trauma which greatly impacted her. As a child, she was always quiet, observant. When she was in grade school one of her classmates attempted suicide. This shook Dr. Sarah to her core. She didn’t know it then, but it began in her a simple desire to help others. Dr. Sarah later learned firsthand the benefit of receiving help from your community. As a single parent in college, Dr. Sarah accredits the encouragement, support and guidance from her mentors that kept her determined to finish college and pursue her life’s mission despite her circumstances.

Dr. Sarah’s road to success hasn’t always been easy, but she perseveres anyway to pursue her dreams. Some of the best advice she received came during college. During a rough time when she wanted to give up, a professor reminded her that she had already invested more now than there is work left to finish. Dr. Sarah has held onto those words since then, allowing them to motivate her through moments of

a group of people posing for the camera

doubt and fear. She moves towards the light of faith moment by moment and step by step remembering that everything that has come before, has already prepared her for such a time as this. It was this mindset that helped her through a difficult time after finishing graduate school. Because she didn’t pass her license exam the first time, she chose to take three part-time jobs to make ends meet. Despite her efforts, she was underpaid, disappointed, and exhausted while studying to pass the second round of testing. It was the discomfort that she felt working three part-time roles, studying, and being a mom after completing her doctorate that provoked her to branch out on her own.

Once she took her first steps towards entrepreneurship, it was clear that each step of faith would beget the next. Dr. Sarah fought through depression, doubt, and anxiety and decided to open her own practice in 2017 after over two years in her previous role. And the rest, as they say, is history. An important lesson was forged in this season of great discomfort, Dr. Sarah says.  She learned God has ordered her steps, that she’s stronger than she ever knew and that every problem or setback she encounters can be turned into an opportunity if you have the right mindset.

a group of people sitting at a table in front of a windowWhen I asked Dr. Sarah what she is most proud of, she replied she is most thankful for finally getting to a point to see the seeds she planted years ago become fruit.  Which makes sense because Dr. Sarah defines a winning moment as those seemingly small, everyday moments and steps we take that truly count as wins– finishing a writing assignment when you don’t feel like it, rolling out of bed each day, or pushing through the moments of self-doubt. Taking these small steps when they’re difficult to do, in turn, gives one the ability to tune into who they are despite the world telling you otherwise. That’s the win.

It’s no surprise to me that Dr. Sarah described her winning moment in relation to helping someone else. After finishing graduate school on time as a single mom, a colleague decided to get saved because of the way they saw Dr. Sarah manage her graduate school experience with grace and perseverance. It’s having that type of impact on others that feels like her winning moment. She prays she is able to have more of these moments of inspiration and impact. I have no doubt that she will.

To learn more about Dr. Sarah’s programs visit:


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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

Another Winning Moment Spotlight: Cortney Hawkins

In my conversation with this month’s Another Winning Moment spotlight, Cortney Hawkins, I thought about a quote from Why Not Win? – “What if more of us did that: made up our minds to take the life that we are given and-no matter the fumbles or the fouls-make the most of it and resolve to win?”

Her story like many others shows how perseverance and dedication leads to winning…

a woman posing for a pictureBirmingham native Cortney Hawkins was laid off in the summer of 2020 with no job or prospects in the pipeline. However, she persevered and maintained a positive attitude. Cortney says that no matter what, “she keeps going.” And that’s exactly what she did. Cortney applied to jobs the very next day and networked with friends and professionals in the community like Dr. Zillah Fluker.

Cortney was intentional about what her next steps were going to be. She wanted work that would align with her passion for service, her background and appreciation for history, and her personal mission for the advocacy of human and civil rights. She knew she wanted to make a difference in the world and to do so she didn’t have time to waste being down. Cortney hustled and applied to countless jobs and eventually landed the opportunity as the first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager for the University of Virginia Police Department. This was no small feat. Cortney was tasked with a large and complex goal: repair community relations with the police and bring back trust within the community.

The University of Virginia is located in Charlottesville which has a history of racial turmoil that was further exacerbated by the 2017 deadly “Unite the Right” rally. Chief of Police, Tim Longo, created the Chief Diversity Officer role in May 2020 with hopes to unite a divided community, with a deep mistrust of the police. Per CBS19 News, the role is intended to focus on diversifying the police department and improving engagement between UVA students and law enforcement. Longo chose the right woman for the job.

Cortney has already hit the ground running with her primary focus on outreach and education. She has implemented a four-part educational series on the Derek Chauvin trial. Hawkins said this was an important and critical conversation that the police department needed to lead. As difficult a conversation, it may be to have, it’s important to Cortney that the surrounding community knows that the police department works for the community.Maura Chanz posing for the camera

It has been rewarding to be a partner to her community. Cortney not only gets to hear firsthand and understand their concerns surrounding the UVA police department but is also in a unique position to impact change. She is excited to work towards changing the narrative and relations between the local citizens and the UVA PD.

Prior to joining UVAPD, Cortney was a former collegiate basketball player. From there she worked in the mental health field, became a teacher and later worked at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate she is also studying to obtain her JD degree from Birmingham School of Law.

Cortney’s biggest lesson is you have the power to change. In order to do so, you must always know and recognize your value.

Keep winning…Cortney!

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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

Another Winning Moment Spotlight- Selena Rodgers Dickerson

Another Winning Moment

This quote – “Focus on the good and the pleasant in the midst of unpleasant situations” – replays in my mind as I think about my dear friend and fellow comrade, Selena Rodgers Dickerson and her life’s work.


Wife. Mother. Community Leader. Businesswoman. Survivor. These are just a few of the titles that describe this month’s Another Winning Moment Spotlight: Selena Rodgers Dickerson.


On the road to “winning”, Selena faced many challenges. One instance occurred while she was in college. Selena was severely beaten by her then boyfriend and was hospitalized as a result. However, the psychological and emotional toll from the abuse had lasting impacts. A former athlete, she used to leverage her athletic abilities to harness her strength and confidence. This traumatic incident stripped her of her sense of self, courage and independence. While it took her years to fully recover from the emotional and mental impacts of this violent act, the following summer Selena took one action that sparked her journey in healing and rediscovering herself. Selena enrolled in basic training. In basic training she found herself and her voice again. Going through the physical rigor of training and the life skills of self-defense and weapons training began to help her to reconnect to her strength, self-esteem and independence once more.


Instead of letting this traumatic experience define her, Selena uses it to motivate her through other difficult situations in life. She says to herself “that didn’t kill you, so keep going. You made it through. You can keep going.” Selena prefers to be known that she survived domestic violence and didn’t stop there. “She kept kicking butt”, she says. It was just one circumstance that she overcame along the way.

a woman sitting at a table using a laptop computer


Selena’s faith is a large part of her life. It was her faith in God that gave her the strength she needed to rediscover herself and plan her future. Her second challenge was to put herself through school by working full-time.  It wasn’t just about graduating, it was about surviving and failure wasn’t an option. Hebrews 11:1 is one verse that kept her on track. No matter how long it took, Selena knew that a college degree would afford her the type of life she dreamt of living. So, she persevered. She graduated from Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and after entering the workforce she returned back to school to earn her Master of Science in Business Administration with a project management focus.


By the time Selena was laid off in 2010, she had already formed her company’s LLC, obtained her MBA and networked such that she was able to seamlessly start working for herself. It wasn’t that she was just fortunate, but it was years of planning and persistence that led to her taking God-ordained deliberate steps along the way. Selena believes success is where preparation meets opportunity. I couldn’t agree more.


Selena currently owns a number of successful businesses including SARCOR, LLC which provides engineering, project management, and construction management to private, corporate, and municipal clients; Selene, LLC, a diverse business solutions company that helps organizations locate minority contractors; and a commercial real estate portfolio which includes a fully leased building in the trendy Uptown area of downtown Birmingham.


As a black woman in engineering, her business success hasn’t always come easy or gone smoothly. However, Selena maintains a persistent outlook. There have been countless times she felt discouraged because of the treatment she received, but she didn’t quit. She’s already broken barriers and intends to continue to do so to pave the way for others to follow in her footsteps. It’s this commitment to her community, her team and her relentless pursuit of excellence that sets her apart from her peers.


A part of Selena’s daily routine is prayer and a bible reading to start her morning before her feet ever hit the ground. She’s become even more disciplined in staying connected to God and growing in her faith over the past year. Selena makes sure to incorporate her daughter into her prayer routine and speaks a daily affirmation over her daughter to help build up her confidence and faith. Selena often prays for provision and believes in God to provide it in plain and elementary ways so that she knows it came from God and God alone.


Selena’s biggest lesson learned is to be resilient despite your circumstances. If you want something out of life, your actions have to be in alignment with your words.


We can’t control all parameters of our life, but we can control our response and our actions, and we can become success stories, just like Selena.

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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

Another Winning Moment Spotlight: Marie Sutton

Another Winning Moment

Today’s Another Winning Moment Spotlight is a personal one. It is a story about a dear friend of mine, Marie Sutton. Marie and I crossed paths many years ago and have a very special relationship.  A fellow author herself, she was an integral part in assisting me in laying the groundwork for Why Not Win?

However, as we embarked on the new book venture, our time was cut short due to her diagnosis of cancer. My, how we prayed for her during the process. I remember vividly the joy I felt when I received the phone call and heard “Larry, I am cancer-free.” Those words echoed through my mind for hours and as I sat reflecting on what that meant for her and her family, I was overwhelmed with happiness and relief that she won her first battle.

Her story was an inspiration to me and I would like to inspire you as well…


On January 16, 2018, Marie, Director of Marketing and Communications at UAB Student Affairs nervously awaited a phone call with the results of her biopsy. She glanced at her phone during an interview and noticed that she received a voicemail from her doctor. Marie had an eerie feeling as she heard the sigh in the doctor’s voice that things were not good. A few moments later, to her dismay, she was informed that she had stage three breast cancer two weeks shy of her 44th birthday.

Immediately she called her lifeline, her husband, who rushed to be by her side. Together they prayed, cried and planned how they were going to overcome this next challenge in their lives.a group of people posing for the camera

Many times, people begin to think of themselves and how they are feeling but Marie had a different motivation – her two children. With the thoughts of their young faces flashing before her eyes, she knew she had to fight. But in order to “win” the battle, she had to clear her mind and get ready for the war. Her mother along with Janice, her prayer partner entered into her home to pray with and over her. Mrs. Janice with her infinite wisdom, told Marie in order to prepare for the fight of her life, she had to release any unforgiveness. Marie had a perplexed look on her face but she took her advice. As she closed her eyes, she began to reflect over her entire life and realized she had some unforgiveness in her heart that needed to be removed. She first forgave herself. She realized she was blaming herself for her diagnosis. She felt it was something she had done that brought her to this point in her life. Her next task was to forgive every person… every word… and every thing. During this prayer session, She released it all and made space for the healing.

Marie during a treatmentMarie was now ready for the healing process to begin. Over the next few months, she went through radiation, chemotherapy and a mastectomy. From her mother-in-law assisting in household tasks to her UAB colleagues for their encouraging words and support to UAB campus dining pulling up in a truck filled with meals, her support team anchored her through the entire process.

Three years later, Marie is cancer-free and living her life. She made a decision to live in the moment – enjoying her family, kids and anything else that comes her way. Marie is using her gift of writing to write two books simultaneously – one on the history of the Magic City Classic and one about her grandmother.  In the future, she will write a book about her cancer journey.

Marie’s advice is for women to listen to their bodies. “Don’t try to be a martyr. Role model self-care”.

a close up of a girl in a pink shirt


I hope this brief summary of Marie’s story, inspired you as much as it inspired me. To learn more about her journey, please read through these blog posts and op-ed pieces she wrote during this time.

Becoming the one-breasted lady


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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

Father-Son Duo Expand McDonald’s Footprint in Birmingham

Father & Son Duo of Thornton Enterprises Expand McDonald’s Footprint by Three Stores Despite the Current Climate

Birmingham, AL – (December 16, 2020) Thornton Enterprises announces the acquisition of three additional McDonald’s franchises.  In the midst of unprecedented times, a pivot and growth mindset can prove well for positioning for greater impact.  That is exactly what this father-son duo is doing.  On December 16, 2020, Larry D. Thornton, Sr. and his son, Larry D. Thornton, Jr. (Dale) added three local McDonald’s restaurants to their Thornton Enterprises, LLC portfolio.  These additions follow the recent 2019 addition of two stores, giving them total ownership of seven McDonald’s restaurants in and around Birmingham, AL. Larry made history in July of 1992 when he opened his first McDonald’s restaurant Dale, who was 10 years old at the time as appropriately appointed “Playground Manager.” Over the years, Dale rose through the ranks and has learned to manage all positions of the McDonald’s day to day operations, and subsequently became one of the youngest 100% approved McDonald’s Owner/Operators at only twenty-five years of age, in May of 2006 when he purchased his first McDonald’s restaurant.

The McDonald’s business model values consistency in service, product quality and customer experience.  That is what one gets in the Thornton Enterprises owned facilities, however, the new additions carry a particular and unique resonance for both Larry and Dale.

“My first experience of stepping behind the front counter of a McDonald’s was at Roebuck McDonald’s (218 Gadsden Highway) where I started my training to become a McDonald’s franchisee,” said Larry.  At the time he was the Advertising Manager at Coca-Cola Bottling United.  He was asked to maintain confidentiality of his eighteen-month, McDonald’s Registered Applicant Training Program. However, on his very first day of training, in walks three of his Coca-Cola department head colleagues. “There I was wearing a headset pushing Cokes, fries and Big Macs through the drive-thru window,” said Larry. “I honestly cannot recall what meandering and cockamamie story I came up with…but as I can recall, it worked.”

The next store is the Claremont McDonald’s (2733 Eight Avenue South).   Ironically, Dale was born at nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital located less than a block away from the Claremont McDonald’s.

Another personal story surrounds the Midfield McDonald’s (11 Philips Drive).  “For four years, I regularly frequented this store as it was the closest McDonald’s to my Alma Mater – Miles College,” said Dale. “My father often reminds me of the ministerial aspects of how we do business.  I am really looking forward to partnering with Miles College and the surrounding community for any appropriate opportunities for giving back,” said Dale.
Dale and Larry Thornton inside McDonald's
With Thornton Enterprises, LLC. having grown by five McDonald’s restaurants in less than two years, Dale said “we have significantly adjusted our operations approach.” He is extremely proud of their long-term associate and Director of Operations of twenty-one years, Tracey Twyman. “Tracey and his team are more than prepared to meet and exceed these additional challenges.”

Dale went on to say “our plans are to move swiftly on getting these restaurants modernized as quickly as possible…once they’ve undergone a Major Reinvestment Project (MRP), we are quite confident about the growth and sales potential of each restaurant.”


About Thornton Enterprises, LLC

Thornton Enterprises, LLC was founded in 1992 by Larry D. Thornton. Larry was a long-time employee at Coca-Cola Bottling Company United and currently serves as a member of their Board of Directors as well as the Board of Directors of Synovus Bank.  Larry has held numerous positions of community leadership to include being the first African-American President of The Club and currently the president of the world’s largest membership – Kiwanis Club of Birmingham. In 2019, Larry was named CEO of the Year by Birmingham Business Journal.


For Immediate Release

Contact: Larry Thornton – | 205-910-1059

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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

Another Winning Moment Spotlight: C.J. Johnson

a person holding a football ball

Athletes undergo rigorous training their entire lives for that one career moment. That game-changing moment was October 28, 2018, for Arkansas Tech University linebacker, C.J. Johnson.

With 46.5 seconds remaining on the clock, Johnson broke the pass to the receiver, and the Wonder Boys’ were well on their way to victory over Southeastern Oklahoma State – a first road victory since 1992.

a group of people standing next to a fence

That first down would have typically had the entire stadium on their feet in celebration but unbeknownst to Johnson that would be the last play of his football career.  That final hit won the game but left Johnson with a fracture to his fifth cervical vertebrae.

He was immediately flown to Little Rock and within eight hours began receiving care. Doctors indicated that his injury was pushing backward onto his spinal cord and could lead to paralysis.

However, the tenacity and faith that was instilled in Johnson early in Hattiesburg, Miss. invigorated him to beat all odds and allowed him to place that green and gold uniform on once more. In the final home game of 2018, just a week after the near paralyzing incident, Johnson wheeled his chair onto Buerkle Field and was able to walk the final 20 yards. Johnson continued working on his recovery and graduated this spring with an electrical engineering degree.

Jordan Adams wearing a suit and tie smiling at the cameraJohnson described his situation in one word… “Blessed,” he said.

Congratulations, C.J. on your winning moment….we see many more in your future. 




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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

Another Winning Moment Spotlight: Chandrel Wright-Richardson

Another Winning Moment

a man and woman sitting next to a window

When I think of Chandrel Wright-Richardson, I reflect on a quote from my book that states – “No matter how many opportunities or accolades you receive, or whether your beginnings are humbled or privileged, you can never give too much to others in genuine need.

I became acquainted with Chandrel as she serves as the executive director for the Harbert Center which hosts the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham weekly chapter meetings. She greets me and each Kiwanian with a warm smile and ensures that we have a great meeting. Over the last few years, we have fostered a great relationship and I was amazed when I discovered her recent involvement in the community… providing a meal to those in need.

As a child growing up in Birmingham’s Wylam community, Chandrel learned how to take care of others. She watched earnestly as her grandmother took care of their village. There was not a day that Chandrel returned home from school, where she did not see a neighbor in their home being helped by her grandmother.

a plate of food on a table

Those moments were engrained in Chandrel and after leaving work one day, she saw an opportunity to pay it forward. She noticed that her “downtown friends” were searching in dumpsters looking for a meal. This is something that she has never seen within the downtown homeless community but with the rapid changes due to COVID-19, downtown businesses had temporarily closed due, leaving little to no food source for this group.

That is when she immediately jumped into action. She spoke with her brother and mother and together they formed the M.O.M. (Multiplication of Meals) Group. They agreed to prepare 24 meals three times a week and deliver them to their downtown friends.

So, on March 31 as the world was still in a chaotic state due to the pandemic, Chandrel and her family delivered the first meals to this community.

After the experience, Chandrel went to social media, just to post her thoughts which spawned the creation of a 50+ group of community members wanting to get involved. I was impressed to learn that for four months this grassroots organization fed the homeless community weekly and currently distributes monthly. As Chandrel has now taken the organizer role, she creates the menu, goes grocery shopping, coordinates volunteers, manages the donations, and communicates consistently with the Facebook group on how they can be further engaged. To date, this group has served over 800 meals between Linn and Kelly Ingram Parks with the combined efforts of Bonus M.O.M. Group.

The relationship between M.O.M. Group members and the Downtown Friends has been great and continues to grow. Now members are on a first name basis and have created a friendship that will last forever.

It has been a great partnership and continues to grow. This winning moment shows how one person can create a movement. It all starts with one.

To whom much is given, much is required…

a group of people posing for the camera



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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

Another Winning Moment Spotlight: Davida Jackson And Carter


Another Winning Moment

Today, I’m so excited to introduce you to my new friend, Carter and his mother Davida.

In June 2019, while on a family vacation in New York, Davida Jackson and her family discovered her three-year-old son, Carter had leukemia. The hospital staff wanted to begin treatment immediately in New York, but they returned to Children’s of Alabama to begin the long journey ahead. a man and a woman looking at the camera

While at Children’s, Davida and Carter have received exceptional service during their cancer treatment. Through his adversity, Carter is full of joy. He loves the outdoors and playing with bubbles. Even when he is hurting, you can see his beautiful smile confirming that everything will be ok. His favorite meal is -McDonald’s French fries, which he has every day.

a group of people standing in a roomDuring one of their daily McDonald’s run, I noticed Davida and Carter waiting in line. As I normally interact with guests when I enter one of my stores, I engaged in a conversation and learned about this charming, little man and his daily fight. As a father, I cannot imagine the anguish that Davida could be feeling but all I saw were smiles of joy. I felt compelled to leave Carter with a memory that he could cherish for years to come and offered one of my paintings. Carter selected “Blue Halo”. I had the painting matted and framed and we scheduled a time for me to meet. Unbeknownst to me, when I entered the store, I saw a group of supporters rallying around Davida and Carter for this occasion.

From my conversation with Davida, this is nothing unusual, her family is always there cheering her along. It is moments like these that encourage Davida to keep going. Her faith and family fuel her to press towards the mark during this three-year journey. As a mother of six children, ranging in age from 3 to 17, sometimes it is challenging balancing between homework, basketball games, and Carter. Davida points out that “If I didn’t have family – I would be lost.”

Her family provides support and is the cheerleader for her children when she cannot make it. She reminds herself to “Keep God first and he will give you a sign that things will be ok.” She recently created a Facebook Page called Carter Conquering Childhood Cancer C4. This page is designed to serve as support for others who may be experiencing something similar and to provide encouragement during this tedious process.


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The Why Not Win Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, 83-1525256.

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