By Kenny Kirshner
Cancer strikes thousands of people each year. Yes, we do not have a cure and still do not really know how to stop it. But there is hope and we think there is progress to the ultimate goal, which is to end cancer as a whole. Hope was brought to thousands of athletes and millions of viewers on the night of March 3, 1993 in Los Angeles at the first ESPY awards.
Jim Valvano was the head basketball coach at North Carolina State, known for his remarkable celebration after an NCAA finals tournament win in 1983. Jim was diagnosed with bone cancer nine years later in 1992. Due to his illness and cancer-struck body, Valvano accepted the ESPY award for courage. Once on stage, he gave his tear-jerking speech that would touch millions of lives across the globe.
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day,” Valvano said.
“We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week; you're going to have something special. Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever. I thank you and God bless you all."
The motto of Valvano’s speech was “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up.” Because of Valvano’s efforts and speech, the “JIMMY V” foundation was set up for cancer research and awareness.
After a strikeout one day, I looked up into the stands at my parents, my number one fans and supporters and thought: “I need to do this for myself, yes, but more importantly, I need to succeed for my parents.” So I took a seat on the bench and thought as the inning was progressing, “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up.” To this day, Valvano’s speech motivates me and probably thousands of other athletes that if you have hit rock bottom in life/sports, do not ever quit on yourself or the people that care about you the most. The hard work will pay off and everything will work out in the end.
I can attest to hard work paying off in the long run. I was disgruntled and sick of going to baseball every day at Siena College. I decided it was time for change because I knew my playing days were not even close to being over. I found St. Thomas Aquinas College and STAC found me. I am now the starting first baseman for the Spartans and enjoying my best college season ever. Every day I think to myself and ask, “What if I did give up? Where would I be right now?” In large part due to Jim Valvano’s speech in March of 1993 and to my parents, I never gave up and never gave in.