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Jimmy V Week kicks off today with Robin Roberts providing introduction, new PSA campaign

The seventh annual Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research begins today with a simulcast of Jim Valvano’s iconic 1993 ESPYS speech across all ESPN platforms at 7 p.m. ET. The two-week initiative runs through Tuesday, Dec. 17, concluding with the Jimmy V Women’s and Men’s Basketball Classics. Tonight’s “roadblock” will feature an introduction by cancer survivor, Good Morning America host and the 2013 winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, Robin Roberts.

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In addition, Roberts and a variety of athletes, coaches, celebrities and ESPN personalities also will appear in public service announcements following the simulcast, reciting Valvano’s speech and encouraging supporters to make a donation to The V Foundation. The PSAs and Jimmy V Week content and graphics will appear across ESPN programming throughout the initiative, including in Monday Night Football, NBA on ESPN games and college football games on ABC.

Front Row spoke to Vice President, Corporate Outreach, Kevin Martinez to learn more about this year’s initiative:

Why was Robin Roberts selected to introduce Jim’s speech this year?
Robin is a vision of courage and character – and she exudes the words of Jim’s speech more than anyone we know. She is an inspiration to so many and the perfect person to speak to what Jim’s words and efforts mean to patients and survivors today.

How did the new PSA campaign come about?
We wanted to do something special for the 20th anniversary to make sure Jim’s words continue to resonate with the next generation and the results are exactly what we hoped to achieve. Throughout the campaign, viewers will see the superstars of today – LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Colin Kaepernick, Eli Manning, Yasiel Puig, Alex Morgan, Danica Patrick and Gabby Douglas – voicing Jim’s iconic words as part of this campaign. It’s a fresh approach to something so timeless.

How did the NFL and NBA get involved in Jimmy V Week this year?
We reached out to both the NFL and the NBA this year to see if we could align our efforts throughout this two-week period and both leagues were very interested. Throughout Jimmy V Week, we have two Monday Night Football games and two NBA doubleheaders. The added exposure within these two properties will be a great opportunity to reach more fans and supporters. And of course, we continue to be very visible across our college sports programming leading up to the Jimmy V Women’s and Men’s Basketball Classics.

Why is Jimmy V Week such an important part of ESPN’s corporate social responsibility efforts?
Each year, viewers respond to Jimmy V Week with strong support. Last year, the initiative raised nearly $1.6 million, bringing the six-year total of contributions to more than $6.5 million. This terrible disease impacts our families, our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones. But, in the 20 years since Jim’s speech, The V Foundation has helped to fund cancer research and improved cancer treatment options. In fact, ESPN recently donated $1 million to The V Foundation’s endowment fund, which helps cover operating costs of the foundation, enabling 100 percent of cash donations to go directly to research. There’s a long road to go in our fight but this annual effort resonates with a wide audience because it truly impacts us all.

To donate to this year’s Jimmy V Week, viewers may call 1-800-4-JIMMY-V or visit jimmyv.org. Tonight’s simulcast of the speech is also available on demand throughout the initiative.

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