20th Anniversary

20th Anniversary: Why We Pass The V

When Jim Valvano made his 1993 ESPY speech he was unaware that the Embody family was watching. However, it is people like the Embodys that Valvano dreamed would be supporters of The V Foundation.

Coincidence is word that is often used when we can’t seem to pinpoint the connection between two points. Although we may not be able to see the “levers and pulleys” that connect the two points, we recognize that, in almost any situation, there is meaning behind even the smallest of things. The Embody family has a unique relationship with The V Foundation. Although the family has donated money, time, and support, the Foundation seems to have given back to the Embodys in more ways than one. In some ways, the Foundation found the Embodys.

Billy and Andy Embody with NFL Analyst Jon Gruden

Charlotte Embody, loving wife and mother, worked in Sarasota, Fla. for an ABC affiliate. She quickly met Dick Vitale who was a common guest on the sports segment of her newscast. Not far after, Charlotte and Derek, her husband, turned on the television on Mar. 3, 1993 and watched Jimmy V deliver his famous speech at the inaugural ESPYS as he received the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award. In the following years, the Embodys would commonly vacation to Siesta Key, Fla., and frequently visit the Broken Egg restaurant (although probably not as much as Vitale!) and see Vitale. As the two boys, Billy, 21, and Andy, 18, grew up, they would greet and talk with Vitale at dinner. 

“There was one time in particular that Dick was just really great with our kids,” said Charlotte, “I was surprised how generous he was with his time in public like that.”  Vitale’s generosity was reciprocated. Knowing that Vitale was a great friend to Valvano combined with his kindness to Billy and Andy, the Embody family went back to their condo and decided to make a donation to The V Foundation. They handed it directly to Vitale and said, “Get this to The V Foundation.” Charlotte jokes that by the time they got home from dinner, there was already a thank you card, signed books, and posters among other goodies. “We were grabbed by that,” said Charlotte.

The story of the Embodys and The V Foundation connects again in Billy’s 5th grade year. Jennifer Dosher, a N.C. State
alumna, was Billy’s 5th grade teacher. She encouraged him to sign up for a public speaking club where each student was assigned a speech to eventually deliver to the school. Dosher picked Valvano’s speech for Billy. Countless hours of practice returned numerous compliments about what a great job he had done with the speech. A few years later, Andy was asked to give the same speech. Both boys remark that certain parts of the speech have become words that they live by. “Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm” by Ralph Waldo Emerson quickly became Billy’s motto and is truly reflective of constant enthusiasm. Andy lives and breathes, “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!®” quote and also parallels his persistent and determined personality.

The connections don’t end there. At the beginning of Andy’s senior year, Derek’s sister was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Andy was really upset by the news. Without saying anything to the public, he planned to donate $10 to The V Foundation every time he scored a touchdown. Andy scored 20 touchdowns that season. With dreams of a career in football, Andy hopes that alongside his rise in football, so will the awareness of the Foundation.

One way the Foundation celebrates our success is through the annual Dick Vitale Gala. One of Charlotte’s fondest memories of The V Foundation was their first Gala. Charlotte recalls the emotions of their first Gala. “The face to face contact with people, making those relationships, and hearing those stories first hand really gets you on a certain level. You can read about it and you can watch YouTube videos about it, but to see people’s faces, I just really think it takes your emotions to a new level.”

Billy and Andy Embody with Coach Brad Stevens

The Embody family is one highlight of The V Foundation’s success. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we publish one blog piece on the 20th of each month. We had already chosen April 20th for the Embody family when Charlotte told us that’s the date of their wedding anniversary. These little, everyday connections bring our Foundation into the lives of donors and supporters nationwide.

We thank the Embody family for truly embodying our mission, goals, future and being a member of our team. Thank you for helping us “Pass The V” this month. “We Pass The V in little ways. If we can make a difference or make just one person aware or maybe have them give some thought to the importance of The V Foundation, it is worth it.”