An ESPY award identifies exceptional efforts put forth by individual athletes and team performances throughout the year, but some of the most profound achievements recognized on this night do not take place on the pitch or the court or the mound.

They take place somewhere within.

As people across the country tuned into the 2016 ESPY Awards on the evening of July 13th, they discovered John Cena, WWE superstar and 15X world champion, hosting the anticipated event.

One after another, he and other guests introduced incredible people who marched across that stage to receive accolades for service, perseverance, courage and unbelievable comebacks. Their stories all had something in common. Eric Berry’s speech was not centered on his impressive stats from his Pro bowl season after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nor was Sergeant Elizabeth Marks’ speech focused on her ascent to becoming a world-class paraswimmer after being injured while serving in Iraq and overcoming lung disease.

Instead, these individuals elaborated on ideas much greater than themselves and their accomplishments. They spoke about the qualities deeply rooted within us that help people overcome obstacles and the immense hope for the future battle against terminal diseases and the importance of attitude in all of our struggles.

And finally, the long-awaited Jimmy V award recipient took the stage; and Craig Sager’s story was no exception to the incredible strength shown throughout the night.

If viewers were unfamiliar with the NBA reporter’s spirit that matches his incredibly bold and wildly bright wardrobe, it only took moments after he began talking.

Sager accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award from Vice President Biden for his long battle with Leukemia. Matching in the resilience and character of previous recipients and founder Jim Valvano, it didn’t take long to understand why he was deserving of this recognition.

He described a grueling schedule of undergoing chemotherapy most mornings before traveling to games after a 30-year career, but his cancer does not hinder his desire to live life to the fullest. In fact, it makes Craig Sager even more aware of the opportunity each day offers. His smile and positive attitude so clearly permeate his entire being, altering his outlook on life.

“Each and every day is a canvas for all of us, just waiting to be painted,” Sager proclaimed.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was first announced during the 1993 ESPY Awards and today funds all types of cancer research at institutes across the country. Since its founding, The V Foundation has awarded more than $150 million in cancer research grants.

While The V Foundation was featured throughout the ESPYS, and leading up to the event on ESPN and ABC, some may not have picked on other connections the cancer research foundation had with this year’s event including the show’s host, John Cena.  Earlier this year, WWE announced a new partnership with The V Foundation to raise money through Connor’s Cure. The new partnership will expand Connor’s Cure outside of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and support top research centers and hospitals nationwide.

http://www.jimmyv.org/about-us/news/v-foundation-wwe-launch-national-partnership-fight-pediatric-cancer/

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During the ESPYs, The V Foundation also announced its new partnership with Scott Hamilton and his Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation. Hamilton is an Olympic Gold Medalist, Network TV skating analyst, and a cancer and brain tumor survivor. Combining these forces will only strengthen the fight against cancer by funding immunology cancer research projects to young investigators.

The night offered a lot of promise and hope for change.  Although full of tear-jerking moments, all of the speakers addressed how their battle through hardship ultimately transformed their appreciation for life. The V Foundation is an encouraging source of that hope and will continue to give fighters, like Craig Sager, life.

-Cameron C.

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