This week, The V Foundation for Cancer Research and ESPN are teaming up with the NBA and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the fight against pediatric cancer by raising awareness and funds to support lifesaving work for children.
Continuing through March 4, the NBA family – led by Hoops for St. Jude ambassadors – will engage fans through this unique relationship, designed to advance cancer research and patient care benefitting children and families battling pediatric cancer. One hundred percent of donations to The V Foundation from this campaign will go directly toward cancer research benefitting St. Jude patients. Together they form a powerful force in pediatric cancer research.
March 4 marks the 20th anniversary of The V Foundation, which was founded in 1993 by ESPN and legendary N.C. State basketball coach and ESPN commentator, the late Jim Valvano. As a cancer patient, Valvano worked to eradicate the disease by championing investment in promising young cancer researchers. To date, The V Foundation has helped carry his dream forward by awarding more than $100-million in cancer research grants. This new endeavor will allow the organizations to work together to help make the shared vision of a world free of pediatric cancer a reality.
St. Jude treats some of the toughest cases of children battling cancer and no family ever pays St. Jude for anything.
Center Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies has been a strong supporter of St. Jude since his arrival in Memphis in 2008 and this year has become an official St. Jude Ambassador along with NBA players and coaches Pau Gasol, David Lee, Kevin Love, Lionel Hollins, and George Karl.
After a recent visit to St. Jude, Marc Gasol shared his thoughts on the program:
Question: What made you want to get involved and become a St. Jude Ambassador?
Answer: That’s easy. The kids. To be able to walk through those doors, be able to spend time with them and play with them is one of the best parts of my life. I think I’m very lucky to live here in Memphis where I can get to St. Jude often. It’s a place where you maybe think at first that you’re going to cheer them up by playing with them. But what I find is that they play with me and it makes me happy. One day we might read a book or do drawings. Another day it’s making cupcakes with different toppings. We even have tea parties and, yeah, I get right down there at the those little tables. Sometimes I get to hear the older kids tell their stories. All the time I spend with them is very special.
Q: Has there been an influence from your family?
A: My Mom is a doctor. My father was a nurse administrator in Spain. Pau went to medical school before he focused on a career in basketball. So there has always been a tie to the medical community and an awareness that there was work to be done and opportunities for everyone to do their part. I believe our parents gave Pau and me a great education and a sense of how the real world is. They have never pushed us to do anything, whether it was basketball or our studies. But if we chose something, they have always encouraged us to make a full commitment. Sure, our family has been touched by cancer, like most families. My grandfather and my aunt both passed away from cancer. But that is not the reason for my interest or involvement. I just like to like to be with the kids and to help them and get the message across the world. Any research or discoveries at St. Jude are spread to hospitals everywhere. We have similar research hospitals in Spain and they all share information, discoveries, treatments. I also like to stress that once a child and their family comes through the doors of St. Jude they do not have to worry about money. No one ever pays. It’s only about taking care of the kids. When you see what that means to families who come here, you understand how special this is to so many people.
Q: What was your first visit to St. Jude like and how have the visits affected you personally?
A: I was only about 17 or 18 the first time that I came out with Pau. I can’t say that I have a specific memory of one thing or one person, but what stays with me is that the first time you come through those doors you get a sense of hope and happiness. Of course, when anyone moves to Memphis I think your awareness goes up and it becomes a bigger part of you. You learn and you find out what makes St. Jude different. It’s not a hospital. At least, not the way that you usually think of a hospital. You come here and you see happiness and colors and kids playing and learning and teaching each other. You see a place that is filled with smiles and hope. It’s a place of fun.
Q: What is the reaction of your teammates and fellow NBA players to what you do for St. Jude?
A: I’m not pushy. I don’t try to convince people. I’ll recruit if I have to. But I think once players do come, you don’t have to convince anyone. I tell them how they can help, what they can do. I just had a visit with some of the new guys on our team — Austin Daye, Ed Davis, Dexter Pittman, Jon Leuer – and it always has an effect.
Q: Do you have favorite memories of your St. Jude experiences?
A: I have a lot of memories. I been here living in Memphis now five years. Sadly, some of those memories are of kids who are not here anymore, times when there are not happy endings. But I’ve had those relationships with them and the relationships and experiences will never go away. I’ve had so many experiences of watching kids get better. A lot of them are basketball fans and they love to watch our games and give us their opinions on how we do. We played in Brooklyn the other night and won and a lot of them watched on TV. We had a halftime segment with Coach Hollins that we did at St. Jude. They loved that. They loved seeing themselves. It’s just great to see them so excited, so happy.
Q: What is the message you want to get out from this campaign?
A: The message should be St. Jude. It’s a place of hope. Anything is possible and we need your help. You and your entire family. For the kids.