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This Jimmy V Week, We Remember Our Friend John Saunders

John Saunders was a true friend. I feel this so deeply.  So, it was with mixed feelings that I heard from so, so many people at the celebration of his life last month that John was a true friend to them, too. Mixed because I felt a special friendship, yet as I listened to speaker after speaker, they said the words that described exactly the man I knew. I left feeling inspired by all John left us.  He was generous, tough, kind, principled, caring and loyal. He never veered as an advocate for those things most important to him – human rights, racial inequities and fighting cancer. John was a mentor to so many people, I think he must have secretly been, at least, a triplet.  He was an athlete, a gifted analyst, a beloved broadcast personality and a deeply committed family man.

John had a unique gift of looking at you and seeing all of you – and accepting you without judgement.

How is it he was able to touch so many people so personally that each felt as if they were his best friend?  I believe it is because he saw you. John had a unique gift of looking at you and seeing all of you – and accepting you without judgement. I was the lucky recipient of that look, and I saw it happen again and again with others.

Jim Valvano asked his friend John Saunders to be on the Board of Directors of the V Foundation when it first began. A deep trust and friendship (sound familiar?) drove the choice. For the ensuing 23 years, John was a key leader of the Foundation’s board. He spoke out with passion for cancer research, for people struggling with a cancer diagnosis, against children’s cancer, against the ethnic disparities in research and in the disease. He helped steer the course of the Foundation’s future with an unerringly clear view attitude. He acted, he stepped up and he said yes. And the V Foundation is forever in John’s debt.

Life wasn’t always easy for John, either. He struggled with type 1 diabetes. He sought excellent care, but there wasn’t always a clear answer available. I believe no one watching him on air would have guessed that, because he was such a dedicated professional. Yet, it may have been those struggles, combined with a heart of gold, that made my friend – our friend – John Saunders an insightful treasure for the V Foundation and for every single person he met.

Click below to donate to the John Saunders Grant for Pediatric Cancer Research

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