By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research and ESPN have teamed up each year for 15 years to raise awareness and funding to support life-saving cancer research. Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has remained a big supporter of the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.
With the annual V Week, which concluded in December of 2021, top sports and corporate world leaders pledged to work together to increase funding to help defeat cancer in America.
Named after the late North Carolina State Basketball Coach Jimmy Valvano, the coaching legend was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer.
Today, the V Foundation has continued to work diligently to do more cancer research.
Despite his diagnosis, Jimmy V – as he was known – didn’t go down without a fight.
He set a standard for battling that remains part of sports folklore.
At the inaugural ESPY Awards in 1993, Valvano received the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award.
Because of his courageous fight against cancer, Valvano remains the epitome of sports resiliency, determination, and overachievement.
The late North Carolina State coach, who led his team to an improbable national championship in 1983, inspired an entire country and coaches and players everywhere.
But more than anything else, Valvano, who died at the age of 46 on April 28, 1993, is known for never giving up.
The 2021 Jimmy V Week closed on December 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York with matchups between Tennessee vs. Texas Tech and Syracuse vs. Villanova.
“The mission – victory over cancer – is still as important as ever,” Pam Valvano Stasser, Valvano’s widow and mother of their three children, wrote in an op-ed.
While final numbers aren’t yet available for 2021, last year’s Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research raised more than $8.8 million for cancer research – a 6 percent year-over-year increase from 2019.
Sports fans, employees, leagues, and the corporate community contributed.
And, like many other social equity causes, the Phoenix Suns remains on the frontlines to ensure public health research and healthcare equity for all communities.
As one of the leading owners of a NBA team, Robert Sarver continues to promote health on the basketball court as well as off the court in communities where there are health disparities, in particular in communities of color. Sarver has also lived to battle his own fight to challenge heart disease.
Sarver’s father, Jack, passed away in 1979 at 58 after a battle with heart disease.
Since then, Sarver has partnered with the University of Arizona to create the Sarver Heart Center.
Sarver said his childhood memories of his father’s valiant struggle still motivate him and his three sons to end the heritage of heart disease.
Founded in 1986, just three years after Valvano’s Wolfpack defeated the mighty Houston Cougars to win the NAACP championship, the Sarver Heart Center began with the goal of preventing and curing cardiovascular disease through the three pillars of research, education, and patient care.
Renamed in 1998 in recognition of generous support from the Sarver family, the Center is composed of about 150 physicians and scientists with national and international reputations.
According to the information posted on the hospital’s website, the goal is to bring together scientists from complementary backgrounds and expertise to work collaboratively toward a future free of heart disease, vascular disease, and stroke.
The University of Arizona’s Sarver Heart Center has pursued life-saving innovations, research, and patient care.
They’ve reported progress since the 1960s, when 40 percent of Americans died of cardiovascular disease. Today, that figure reportedly has decreased to 34 percent, and death from the illness now occurs at an older age.
While Jimmy V week 2021 recently closed, organizers said it’ll certainly return in 2022 to help basketball fight for healthier communities, and the Sarver Heart Center continues to leave a transformative legacy on behalf of Jack Sarver.