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25 Years of Funding Excellence: Susan Braun

When the V Foundation Board interviewed me for the CEO position, the first two people I called were my son (in college) and my mother (85). I wondered if they knew about the V and about Jim Valvano. Before I shared the news, I asked each, “Do you know who Jim Valvano was?”

My son, thinking I had to be kidding, explained he watched ESPN every day, that Jim had been a famous college basketball coach and then an ESPN commentator, who died from cancer. Oh, and did I know there was a Foundation? His roommate was a member of Delta Chi, who raised funds every year for cancer research for the V Foundation. Oh, and have you heard his famous speech? It’s awesome. Yep.

Every day, we lose 1,600 people to cancer in this country alone. EVERY SINGLE DAY! Can you imagine a war that did that? Or a terrorist attack? Or a plague? If every name was read each day on the news? But still, more survive than die. That’s the silver lining. That’s what keeps me fighting.

My mother just launched into her normal enthusiastic telling of a great basketball game. She explained the year was 1983, NC State University had made it all the way to the NCAA men’s basketball championship game and she really liked the coach – that was Jim Valvano she informed me – and she was rooting for them to win. It got late, and NC State was losing, so she went to bed. An hour later, she got up, and the game was still on, and it was a two-point game with only seconds left to play. Dereck Whittenburg tried to shoot long, Lorenzo Charles grabbed it and dunked it, the buzzer sounded and State had won. She said that coach she loved was running around the court looking for someone to hug. Oh, and did you know Valvano died of cancer 10 years later? Yep.

And 1993 was the year I got involved in a quest to help put an end to cancer. My college roommate died of cancer. We were both young moms. It seemed so improbable and unfair. I helped start a major cancer advocacy program, grow a few cancer research foundations and learned how hard this goal is and also how deeply meaningful. There has been so much progress since then, and there remains a lot to do. Every day, we lose 1,600 people to cancer in this country alone. EVERY SINGLE DAY! Can you imagine a war that did that? Or a terrorist attack? Or a plague? If every name was read each day on the news? But still, more survive than die. That’s the silver lining. That’s what keeps me fighting.

So, when the V Foundation Board offered me the CEO role, there was no other answer. Yep … I’ll be there!