This Jimmy V Week, We Remember Our Friend John Saunders

John Saunders was a true friend. I feel this so deeply.  So, it was with mixed feelings that I heard from so, so many people at the celebration of his life last month that John was a true friend to them, too. Mixed because I felt a special friendship, yet as I listened to speaker after speaker, they said the words that described exactly the man I knew. I left feeling inspired by all John left us.  He was generous, tough, kind, principled, caring and loyal. He never veered as an advocate for those things most important to him – human rights, racial inequities and fighting cancer. John was a mentor to so many people, I think he must have secretly been, at least, a triplet.  He was an athlete, a gifted analyst, a beloved broadcast personality and a deeply committed family man.

John had a unique gift of looking at you and seeing all of you – and accepting you without judgement.

How is it he was able to touch so many people so personally that each felt as if they were his best friend?  I believe it is because he saw you. John had a unique gift of looking at you and seeing all of you – and accepting you without judgement. I was the lucky recipient of that look, and I saw it happen again and again with others.

Jim Valvano asked his friend John Saunders to be on the Board of Directors of the V Foundation when it first began. A deep trust and friendship (sound familiar?) drove the choice. For the ensuing 23 years, John was a key leader of the Foundation’s board. He spoke out with passion for cancer research, for people struggling with a cancer diagnosis, against children’s cancer, against the ethnic disparities in research and in the disease. He helped steer the course of the Foundation’s future with an unerringly clear view attitude. He acted, he stepped up and he said yes. And the V Foundation is forever in John’s debt.

Life wasn’t always easy for John, either. He struggled with type 1 diabetes. He sought excellent care, but there wasn’t always a clear answer available. I believe no one watching him on air would have guessed that, because he was such a dedicated professional. Yet, it may have been those struggles, combined with a heart of gold, that made my friend – our friend – John Saunders an insightful treasure for the V Foundation and for every single person he met.

Click below to donate to the John Saunders Grant for Pediatric Cancer Research

Donate Now

We Want You for an ESPYS Speech tribute!

You saw Jim recite it, you witnessed the top athletes remake it and the patients at Duke Children’s, and now we want YOU for a tribute!

In honor of this year’s Jimmy V Week, ESPN and The V Foundation are teaming up to create the ultimate fan tribute of Jim Valvano’s famous ESPYs speech. Throught #JimmyVWeek we will highlight a different line of the speech below, and all you have to do is get ready for your close up! Record your own clip reciting your favorite line, and post it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest with the #JimmyVWeek for your chance to star in the newest version of Jim’s speech. Be creative, get your friends involved, and show us what you’ve got—who knows where your five minutes of fame could take you!

Time is very precious to me.

I don’t know how much I have left.

And I have some things Id like to say.

To me, there are three things we all should do every day.

Number one is laugh.

Number two is think.

Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears.

Think about it, if you laugh, you think and you cry,

That’s a full day, that’s a good day.

I urge all of you to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have,

To spend each day with some laughter and some thought,

To be enthusiastic every day.

We need your help.

I need your help.

It may save someone you love.

The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research

Its motto is..

“Don’t Give Up…

Don’t Ever Give Up.”

Cancer can take away all my physical abilities,

It cannot touch my mind.

It cannot touch my heart.

And it cannot touch my soul.

Those three things are going to carry on forever.

Basketball in the Summer: Jimmy V Classic Teams Announced!

Since the NBA finals are going on and the draft is just a few weeks away- I think that it’s completely fair to talk about college basketball. And not just college basketball but one of the best classics in the college game – the Jimmy V Men’s & Women’s Basketball Classic.

MensLogoThe teams were recently announced for this year’s event and we couldn’t be more excited about the men’s match-ups. Memphis, Florida, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will be taking the floor in Madison Square Garden on December 17. The first match-up will have Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, former members of Big East Conference, squaring off at 7 p.m. ET. Next, the preseason #6 Florida will take on the preseason #19 Memphis at 9 p.m.

Another exciting piece about the Jimmy V Women’s Basketball Classic is that it will be held in the backyard of The V Foundation- in Durham at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Duke’s campus. The defending national champions, Connecticut, will take on Duke on Tuesday, December 17 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.Womenslogo

While you have to wait until the fall to get a ticket to the classic, the Jimmy V Classic Dinner Auction tickets are available now. This year the event will be held at Gotham Hall, and if you haven’t checked it out, you should because the place is amazing.

I won’t spill too many secrets about the dinner right now but I will tell you that the coaches of the classic will be in attendance. That’s right- Coach Donovan, Coach Cronin, Coach Auriemma, Coach Pastnor, Coach Dixon and Coach McAllie will be there. The question is…will you? 

A chance to “hangout” with Mike Greenberg…

Mike and Stacy Greenberg on the book tour for All You Could Ask For.

All You Could Ask For “Book Talk” on April 23rd

Every morning you hear Mike Greenberg debating about all things sports. In this Google+ Hangout “Book Talk” we are going to debate the actresses who could portray the characters of his new book, “All You Could Ask For.” This insightful story is about three unforgettable women who don’t know each other, but their stories are about to intertwine in ways that no one could imagine.

We have a great opportunity for you! The V Foundation is looking for five people to join our Book Talk” on Google+ and discuss about which actresses would play the parts of the characters and why with Greenberg and his wife, Stacy. After all, in today’s world, it’s becoming second nature for books to become movies- here’s a chance to put your two cents in (It hasn’t happened yet- but the possibilities are endless!).

Read the book (out April 2nd) and submit a 1-2 minute video about which actresses should play the characters by April 16th*. Video submissions can be sent to [email protected].

Learn more about All You Could Ask Forhere. And don’t forget to join the event!

*You must be available on April 19th for equipment testing and April 23rd at 1 pm for the hangout

A Little Interruption

While this time of year is normally known as the countdown to Selection Sunday- we interrupt this college basketball season for a week of the NBA.

For one week- the NBA, ESPN, The V Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Hospital are coming together to raise awareness NBACares_PediatricCancerAwarenessCampaigns_Logosheet.Option2and money for pediatric cancer research. Through March 4, you can donate to the promotion here.

The V Foundation funds three different types of grants: V Scholar, Translational and Designated grants. In the past The V Foundation has awarded $2.1 million dollars in V Scholar and Translational grants to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in the past.

This year an estimated 12,060 children between the ages of 1-14 will be diagnosed with cancer. While the survival rates for the many different types of pediatric cancer are on the rise, is there any number acceptable besides 100%?

Help The V Foundation and its partners fight pediatric cancer and enjoy professional basketball at the same time!

Here are the games to check out this week: 

Sun., 2/24          MEM @ BKN; 7pm/ESPN

Sun., 2/24          CHI @ OKC; 9:30pm/ESPN

Wed., 2/27        GSW @ NYK; 8pm/ESPN

Wed., 2/27        [email protected]; 10:30pm/ESPN     

Fri., 3/1              MEM @ MIA; 8pm/ESPN

Fri., 3/1             [email protected]; 10:30pm/ESPN

Sun., 3/3            CHI @ IND; 8pm/ESPN

Help us make the Final Four!

Coach Steve ProhmTab Brockman
Coach Steve Prohm
Tab Brockman

If we had been selected by one coach in the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge (ICCC) it would have been cool but two coaches- that’s amazing!

In its third year, the challenge has provided a little bit of fun during the college basketball season. Fans can vote every day in each region (that’s right you can vote for a different coach in each region- just make sure you select them all before you click submit!) for their coach. Then after six weeks- the winner of each region will go against each other for two more weeks. The final winner’s charity will receive $100,000.

Our first coach is from Murray State. Coach Steve Prohm is in the East Region and has been making great strides. Currently he is in third place but has been making up ground quickly. I think a final four spot could be in his future. Racer Nation will stand behind Coach Prohm and will help him get his spot in the final four.

“This is an honor to be part of the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge,” Prohm said. “This is a great opportunity to continue to bring awareness to not only The V Foundation which is the charity of my choice, but to the other charities the coaches are involved with. It’s a chance for us to help the less fortunate and I hope everyone will get involved and vote. I appreciate the efforts of Infiniti, NABC, ESPN and the NCAA for their work on this project.”

Coach Mark Gottfried, NC State Media Relations
Coach Mark Gottfried
NC State Media Relations

The second coach is from North Carolina State University. Coach Mark Gottfried is in the South Region and after one day in second place- he took over the lead and has been holding on ever since. The fight in the South Region will be tough but I have faith in the Wolfpack nation. This is what Coach Gottfried had to say, “First of all, there’s a desire to help with the research to cure cancer. I’ve always tried to help The V Foundation because the funds go to directly to help fund research. Plus with Jim Valvano’s association with our school and what he did here, I think it’s important to all of our fans and it fits.”

We are so grateful to Coach Gottfried and Coach Prohm for selecting us as their charity for the challenge. Help us get both of them to the final four- vote (everyday!!!)

UMD: More than a game

The scope of cancer’s impact goes far beyond the surface. Everyone in a family can suffer and endure hardships. Some are physical, some are mental and some are emotional. Only one person might be sick, but the trickle-down effect is tangible, and it’s nearly impossible to evade its influence.

The Maryland Terrapins women’s basketball team is no different with its connections to cancer

Brenda Frese brushes confetti out of her hair. Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback

“If you went through our team, our players, our coaches, our support staff, everybody has somebody that’s been impacted by cancer in some way or another,” coach Brenda Frese said. “The fact we can go out and play a game but also bring awareness on such a national level is exciting.”

No one knows the impact of cancer on a family than Frese. In September 2010, one of her twin sons, Tyler Thomas, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2.

From there, everything changed for Frese. It wasn’t just about game planning for the next opponent anymore. It was now about juggling the duties of an even more intense motherhood while also trying to lead one of the nation’s most successful women’s basketball programs.

The Maryland athletics and university community rallied behind Frese as Tyler underwent a series of chemotherapy treatments. Four former Terps players — Marissa Coleman, Laura Harper, Shay Doron and Kristi Toliver — founded the Team Tyler Foundation to raise money for leukemia.

In each of the past two seasons, the Terps have held a Team Tyler Leukemia Awareness Night, and the Terps plan to again this season when Duke visits Comcast Center on Feb. 24.

“It means a lot to continue to bring awareness to those with cancer and have it personally hit home with your own son obviously makes it even more intimate,” Frese said.

Entering Dec. 3’s matchup with No. 2 Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic, the No. 11 Terps realize they have a huge task at hand in attempting to knock off one the of the nation’s best programs. The two teams have never met, but the Terps are well aware of the UConn program’s prestige. It goes beyond that, though.

“I think the biggest thing for us, it’s not just about a game or just playing a tremendous talented team like UConn, which is exciting, but it’s about so much more,” Frese said. “For us, it’s about the ability to play in that game and continue to bring awareness on a national scale.”

Above all, Frese has the ability to spread awareness of a disease that can have a drastic effect on day-to-day lives. Through basketball, the national champion coach has the ability to reach out to an audience she might not be able to otherwise to tell her story.

“We’re fortunate that we have a medium to be able to do that,” Frese said. “I think it’s critical that we understand as coaches and as teams, it’s not just about our teams. It’s about such a bigger picture. To be able to utilize sports to make a difference in such a better cause I think is pretty special.”

Funding for Cancer Research

Don’t let Cancer Research
fall off of the Fiscal Cliff

by Robert C. Bast, Jr., M.D.
Member, The V Foundation Board 

People often ask if we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we cure cancer? There are several answers to this question, but one of the most important is that we are not investing enough each year in cancer research.  Jimmy V knew this as he faced his battle with cancer, and he was appalled.

Since Jimmy’s death, significant advances have been made in laboratories and clinics around the world. Many of the most important advances have been made here in the United States funded primarily by taxpayer dollars through highly competitive grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to physicians and scientists at cancer centers and universities.  Whatever your politics, this has been a wise investment that has produced an explosion of new knowledge about cancer at the level of cells and molecules.  We are now poised to translate that knowledge to personalize cancer care – writing different prescriptions to target the abnormalities in each patient’s cancer – but progress has been slowed and now is threatened by inadequate and uncertain funding for cancer research.

More than two decades ago, Congressional Republicans and Democrats came together to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health that includes NCI. Since 2003, the NCI budget has, however, remained essentially flat at $6 billion each year (1/636 of the federal budget). Considering inflation, the purchasing power for cancer research has actually declined by nearly 20% over the last decade. Today, only 13% of grant applications are funded, so more than 85% of new approaches to prevent, detect or treat cancer are never tested. Young scientists have been hardest hit and are leaving cancer research, compromising progress for decades to come.

Now, on the eve of 2013, we are faced with the additional uncertainty of the “fiscal cliff.” When the “Super Committee” failed to find the funds to raise the debt ceiling last summer, “sequestration” with automatic across-the-board spending cuts was scheduled for January 1, 2013. As NCI-sponsored cancer research is not an entitlement, but considered discretionary spending, an additional 8% of cancer funding will be cut abruptly, losing the equivalent of nearly 500 grants, further slowing progress and encouraging the exit of additional young scientists who are poised to translate our new knowledge to better care and cure of cancer patients.

What can you do today to accelerate progress in cancer research?  Phone, write or e-mail your Congressman to find a solution to “sequestration” that spares essential investment in cancer research. Consider a donation to The V Foundation which has supported more than 250 young scientists during the first years of their careers in cancer research and have funded more than 150 projects that move new knowledge from the laboratory to the clinic and the community. With the decline in federal funding, your contribution is more important than ever.