With the 20th Anniversary ESPY Awards Show airing tomorrow night, we are reminded of another anniversary: the inspirational speech delivered by Jim Valvano at the initial ESPY Awards ceremony. That led to the establishment of The V Foundation and ESPN’s 20-year relationship with this incredible charitable organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer.
The V Foundation has awarded $100 million in the fight against cancer in the last 20 years to 100-plus cancer centers nationwide. Grants have been awarded in 38 states and Washington, D.C. The V Foundation funds research for all types of cancer and awards grants through a Scientific Advisory Board.
Front Row spoke to Susan Braun, Chief Executive Officer of The V Foundation, about the Foundation’s special relationship with ESPN.
What is the importance of The V Foundation/ESPN relationship; how has it evolved/grown during the past 20 years?
Jim Valvano and ESPN founded The V Foundation in 1993. Since then, ESPN has been the most amazing partner we could imagine. Not only does ESPN provide funds and great media exposure for us, but its employees also volunteer and help fulfill our mission — at every level.
How has Jim Valvano’s original speech continued to influence The V Foundation and its work?
“Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!” is our inspiration and daily motivation in our fight against cancer. The speech has shaped The V Foundation and given us much of our identity.
What V Foundation programs have benefited from the ESPN relationship?
Over the last 20 years, ESPN’s commitment to The V Foundation has grown stronger and stronger. ESPN continues to create new ways of reaching audiences around the country — from golf tournaments to a radiothon to V Week — that allow our work to be recognized and more widely supported. Every program has benefitted. Our work is to fund the best cancer research in the country. Every direct donation made to The V Foundation goes to that purpose. Every effort that ESPN makes, fuels the research, which will lead us to ending cancer.
Who at ESPN has been influential in fostering and growing the relationship and how?
Many members of The V Foundation Board of Directors are ESPN employees or former employees. Steve Bornstein helped shape the partnership with Jim Valvano at the onset. The long-term support we received from George Bodenheimer and Rosa Gatti was incredible. And our current ESPN champions, John Skipper, John Saunders, Norby Williamson, Dereck Whittenburg, Dick Vitale and Jim Allegro are all dedicated to our mission.
Mike Greenberg is a Chair of our V Team. Of course, Kevin Martinez, the Chair of the V Committee, and the dozens of employees who work with him to support The V Foundation throughout the year, are all incredibly generous with giving their time and talents to our cause. We are truly lucky to have this partnership.