Pam Valvano Strasser: “It was BETTER than OK!”

Pam Valvano Strasser, the widow of Jim Valvano, shared her experience of the V Foundation’s founding, Jim’s speech and what the V Foundation means today.

Even though so much time has gone by, the memories are still so vivid in my mind… 

Soon after finding out that Jim was sick, he was called by ESPN and asked to come to the main office. He needed to go and do some studio work in Bristol, Connecticut. Of course, I went with him for support. 

Steve Bornstein, who was the President of ESPN, asked us if we would have breakfast with him the next morning. At that time, we found out that Steve’s father and brother had both died from cancer.  

It was in that meeting that Steve told us that he wanted to establish the V Foundation for Cancer Research. 

From that day on, Steve and ESPN have been the driving force of the V Foundation. We never would have been able to raise over $350 million dollars to help people battling this dreaded disease… not without ESPN’s ongoing dedication and support. 

Our family will always be grateful to all the people who made the dream of the Foundation come true. Jim would be so grateful of everything that has been done and has been accomplished since that day. 

Of course, the ESPYS speech will also be a day that I will never forget. At that time, Jim was so ill from chemotherapy, and on the trip to New York I didn’t know if he could even walk up the steps to get on the stage to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. 

He told me that he might get emotional when he received this great honor. I told him, “It’s OK to get emotional… people would be surprised if you didn’t get emotional!”  

Well, with the help of his good friends, Dick Vitale and Mike Krzyzewski, he climbed up the steps of that stage and the rest of history. 

After the speech was done, and with the help from those two very special people, he was able to get down the stairs and sit down beside me. It was then that he leaned over and asked me, “Was I OK?” 

I said, “Were you OK?… It was BETTER than OK!” 

From that day on so many people have told me how that speech has helped them in their walk through life. 

I have watched the speech so many times since. And I’m always so amazed that he was able to deliver something so powerful, considering how horrible he felt that day. 

The national championship was one of the things on Jim’s bucket list. So, I am so happy he was able to have that experience. There are many coaches that have the very same dream…. but very few get the opportunity. 

Sometimes, I think of the two things that Jim was able to be proud of in his life. The championship, and the establishment of the V Foundation. But what has happened with the Foundation over the past 30 years is the strongest thing I can think of. 

It will stand the test of time for Jim’s life. It certainly is the strongest thing I can think of. To be able to make a positive difference in so many people’s lives is the greatest thing anyone can do. 

Thank you from the Valvano family for making this wonderful accomplishment of Jim’s a reality. He would be so proud. 



Pam Valvano Strasser 

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