Dr. Tunishai Ford almost lost the will to live after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1998.
But after undergoing months of treatment and becoming cancer-free later that year, the way Ford viewed the world changed.
It was this new perspective that inspired Ford to establish Your Own Uniqueness, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to enhancing metro Detroit’s urban communities by providing hope, healing and support by sharing faith-based principles and alternative life skills.
Now, Ford’s dedication to help women and girls reach their full potential by overcoming barriers that hinder them from reaching their full potential is being celebrated.
Throughout Women’s History Month, the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers and Comerica Bank will recognize four trailblazing women who are supporting a positive future for children in the community as part of the Game Changers series.
“As we embark on celebrating Women’s History Month across our organization, we’re thrilled to once again honor incredible women making life-changing impacts on the lives of children in our community through the Game Changers series,” said Kevin Brown, director of community impact for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “We’re proud to kick off the month by honoring Tunishai, who has dedicated her life to empowering and transforming the lives young girls and women across metro Detroit.
At first, Your Own Uniqueness, Inc., almost didn’t happen.
While undergoing intensive chemotherapy treatments, Ford “wanted to give up.”
“I was in so much pain,” Ford said. “Not only physically, but psychologically and emotionally because I felt a lot of people had turned their backs on me. I felt I didn’t receive the support I should have gotten.”
Ford considers herself to be a very spiritual person. So she leaned on her faith to guide her through the hard process of treatment.
“I believe God spoke to me through my spirit and said to me, ‘This is a comma in your life, not a period,’” Ford said. “I knew that God had given me a second chance.”
With a rejuvenated sense of purpose, Ford got right to work. What started as a small conference that she organized evolved into an extensive non-profit entity that provides professional development workshops, health and financial awareness seminars, volunteer opportunities and professional networking events.
“We started off doing little seminars and things like that, but then we began incorporating magazines, quarterly events and even have a youth program now,” Ford said. “I would say over the span of 10 years, everything came to fruition.”
As the organization’s services continue to expand, Ford’s experiences as a teacher, motivational speaker, life coach, preacher and author of four books help her harness the power of words to inspire others.
“Everything we do is dealing with transforming lives,” Ford said. “We even have worship seminars dealing with health and wellness because if you don’t have a healthy body, you can’t do what you’ve been called to do.”
As a person who’s had low self-esteem and after experiencing many toxic and codependent relationships in her life, Ford wants her non-profit to help other women realize their worth.
“A lot of times, a woman can lose sight,” Ford said. “They lose sight because they need to have a little more independence and form their own identity. So everything we do is dealing with transforming lives.”
According to Ford, encouraging participants to further themselves welcomed new relationships in her life.
“There was a woman who I met a while back who was really going through some tough times,” Ford said. “At the time, she was homeless and she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. So she went through my course, went through my books, was able to help herself and now she’s my assistant.”
Your Own Uniqueness, Inc., is shaped by the core values of transformation, racial equity and social justice, commitment and collaboration. By providing structured plans of improvement, participants can learn what might be hindering them from accomplishing their goals.
This system also allows women involved to learn from each other.
“A lot of these women share similar struggles,” the Southgate, Mich., resident said. “So when they’re also working closely with me, our membership just continues to grow as a result of these women going out and spreading the word in the community.”
Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Your Own Uniqueness, Inc., continues its mission of empowering women. The organization conducted a completely virtual seminar on Feb. 26, outlining the power of financial literacy for women in relationships.
“This organization is going to grow by leaps and bounds. Every day, we meet people who want to get involved with what we are doing,” Ford said. “I’m so honored that the Red Wings and Tigers decided to even consider me, because I see myself as a small fish in a big pond.”
Ford said being recognized means the non-profit’s future is headed in the right direction.
“I see our non-profit becoming a well-oiled wheel and I want to take this thing global,” Ford said. “We want to have seminars and workshops that will welcome women from all over the world to be part of what we’re doing. We’re going to continue to try to reach, and travel, globally regularly.”
For now, the organization will continue to provide charitable and educational support. And as Ford makes the most of her second chance in life, she knows she finally has the support to succeed.
“Even though I may be in the role of a leader, my leadership is only contingent on who I surround myself with,” Ford said. “I have a great board and great people working alongside me. I can’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.”
To learn more about how to donate or support Y.O.U. Inc., visit drtford.com.