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On March 4, 1993, Jim Valvano made history. He was honored with the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards presentation. No one knew it at the time, but the speech he delivered would make an indelible mark on the hearts of every listener. Just a year before his famous ESPY speech, Jim was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He was part of just 2 percent of all cancer patients whose doctors could not figure out the origin of the cancer. Because of this rare situation, Jim's cancer was extremely difficult to fight. Doctors told him he had only a short time to live, and on the night of the speech, Jim was covered in tumors and could hardly muster the strength to make it to the stage to accept his award. However, even though he was in unbearable amounts of pain, Jim, known to millions of fans as "Jimmy V" delivered one of the most moving and courageous speeches that anyone has had the privilege to hear. He didn't plan it that way; it's just who he was. The words he spoke in those eleven minutes contained powerful lessons on how to live a full and meaningful life. Years later, his inspirational message has survived the test of time.
At the time of the speech, Jim did not know the lasting effect his words would have, but he knew he had a message in his heart, which would hopefully encourage people to support an important cause. Since 1993, The V Foundation, founded by ESPN and inspired by Jim Valvano, has raised many millions of dollars to find a cure for cancer.
After his speech, there was an outpouring of love for Jimmy V and a landslide of support for his cause, which has only gained momentum over the past fifteen years. While Jimmy V's life and valiant battle inspired people to give, the life lessons offered in the speech are inextricably linked to The V Foundation's core message. The V Foundation embodies Jim Valvano's spirit and commitment to making a significant difference and winning big in the game of life.
Jim Valvano gives us hope, and his speech continues to remind us of how one person's thoughts and desires can truly make a difference. His message was simple, yet profound. People facing challenges in life, from illness or other circumstances, need to continue daily to keep hope and courage alive. They need to embrace life to its fullest, focusing on the important things and letting the little things be exactly what they are...little things. Jimmy V taught us that living each day as if it were our last is powerful, and that each day is a blessing and each moment a gift. Cherishing life was at the core of Jimmy V's message; never forgetting that no matter what you face, either professionally or personally, "Don't give up, don't ever give up."