Remembering My Friend John Saunders

My friendship with John Saunders began 30 years ago, in the mid-1980s, when we first worked together at ESPN. It was a friendship that grew in many ways over three decades. John was filled with passion, pride and loyalty to the people he respected and admired. He was a terrific husband, father and friend and had a heart of gold.

IMG_2898Over the last decade, John was a vital part of the Dick Vitale Gala and in helping kids battling cancer. John served as the emcee for the event and did a phenomenal job. Because of his tremendous friendship with Jim Valvano, John totally dedicated himself to The V Foundation. He was a member of the original founding board and remained an active member his entire life.

Jimmy and John developed an incredible relationship during Jimmy’s tenure at ESPN, and John always spoke of his admiration and love for Jimmy. As a tribute to their extraordinary friendship, John’s daughter, Jenna Tianna Vanessa Saunders (JTV), shared the same initials as Jimmy – James Thomas Valvano.

Friday, Sept. 5, 2008 -- Springfield, Ma -- Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony -- 2008 HOF Inductee Dick Vitale with John Saunders

John had so much love for the youngsters that attended our gala each year, some of them in the midst of cancer treatment and others celebrating being cancer free, and he spent time getting to know each one. I watched with admiration as he spent time with these children, and I know in my heart John would be proud to learn we have established the John Saunders Research Grant to help kids battling cancer. I beg each one of you to take a moment to visit jimmyv.org/saunders or dickvitaleonline.com and make a donation on John’s behalf.

My heart and prayers go out to his courageous family – his wife Wanda and daughters Jenna and Aleah.

May John rest in peace.