For whatever deserved flak that ESPN gets for politicizing its ESPY Award shows, the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance is a genuinely touching part of the program.
Compared to, say, simply saluting someone for attempting to change from a man to a woman, the Jimmy V award is a genuinely heartwarming gesture.
Named after cancer victim and standout North Carolina State basketball coach Jimmy Valvano, the award is given every year to “a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination.”
Past winners have included the likes of Stuart Scott, Craig Sager and Eric LeGrand.
Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly is the 12th recipient of the award for his ongoing, years-long battle with oral cancer.
Always a fighter on the football field, Kelly’s impassioned speech and vow to keep fighting came as little surprise to anyone who knows him.
That doesn’t mean people still didn’t get misty eyed at Kelly’s speech.
Introduced by fellow legendary quarterbacks Dan Marino and John Elway, Kelly was accompanied by his daughters, Erin and Camryn, onstage. He immediately thanked both of his daughters for their support during his ongoing battles.
Jim Kelly's words inspired us all when he received the Jimmy V Award at tonight's #ESPYS.
— ESPN (@espn) July 19, 2018
“Every single time [Erin] walked into the hospital, not one time did she ever have a frown on her face,” Kelly said. “It was always, ‘Daddy, you look so good. You are so cute!’ And she would give me a hug. My daughter Camryn, so many times she would hug me and I didn’t want to let her go. Even today, when she hugged me, I didn’t want to let her go.”
Kelly urged sports fans around the world to offer similar types of infectious positivity on a daily basis.
ICYMI: Jim Kelly reminds us that everyone can make a difference. pic.twitter.com/EbkCnZO4RZ
— ESPN (@espn) July 19, 2018
“Make a difference today for someone who is fighting for their tomorrow,” Kelly said. “When I look across this arena, and when I talk to people, you don’t need to be a Russell Wilson or an Aaron Rodgers to make a difference out there. Every single person in this room can be a difference-maker. You can be a normal person that gets up every morning and goes to work. But you can be a difference-maker, putting smiles on those faces.”
Kelly couldn’t stress the power of positivity enough.
“My kids, my friends when they came in to see me, not once did they ever have a frown on their face. So I just urge everybody out there, if you have somebody out there who is suffering — it doesn’t have to be cancer — it could be somebody not having a good day. It could be your mom or your dad. It could be your grandparents. What you say to them, the smile that you have on your face, that could be the difference in them making it to the next day. Remember that. Always, always persevere. Like Jimmy V said, never, ever give up.”
Kelly was already emotional by the time he reached the stage, having just watched a video remembering his son, Hunter, who died in 2005 of Krabbe disease. And of course, he also thanked his supportive wife, Jill, in his speech.
“It is never easy watching video about my son. So many times I’ve dreamt and continued to dream about my son, Hunter, and what he’s meant in my life, and will never stop,” Kelly said.
Kelly, 58, has been dealing with oral cancer for a while now. Surgeries and chemotherapy have not deterred Kelly’s spirit, despite three separate occurrences of squamous-cell oral cancer in the last five years.
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