More than two decades ago, Charlotte Embody watched a televised speech by a basketball coach, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was accepting an award.
The March 3, 1993 speech was uplifting, but Embody didn’t expect it to have a personal impact on her family.
“Of course, it was emotional, but it didn’t become a big thing in my life,” Embody said.
Over time, that would change.
The coach making the speech was Jim Valvano, former head coach of North Carolina State and an analyst for ESPN.
He was accepting the first Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the inaugural ESPY Awards, ESPN’s awards show.
And, the speech would become an iconic 10 minutes of inspirational television.
Valvano succumbed to cancer the following month, but his legacy continued far beyond his coaching accolades or the frequent replays of his famous speech.
Valvano founded the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which has donated more than $150 million in research grants over the years.
Now, Embody has organized a speaking and book-signing event on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., at Carrollwood Day School, 1515 W. Bearss Ave. in Tampa. The public is welcome to attend, and there is no admission charge.
The school and the V Foundation will host former ESPN President George Bodenheimer, who will be talking about his book, “Every Town is a Sports Town: Business Leadership at ESPN, from the Mailroom to the Boardroom.”
Bodenheimer donates all of the royalties from his book to the cancer foundation.
Embody and her husband, Derek, also have donated to the V Foundation over the years, but the famous speech became a part of her family’s activities as well. Her sons attended Carrollwood Day School, and her oldest son, Billy, was given the speech to read in fifth grade.
“He performed it for competitions at the bay area Forensics League,” Embody explained. Eventually, he won first place with the speech, and his younger brother, Andy, took it on and performed it as well.
The entire family all knew the speech by that point, and after the boys lost a friend to cancer, it took on even more meaning.
Now, helping the foundation is a special cause for the Embodys. When the V Foundation let her know that Bodenheimer would be in town on that date, Embody wanted to set something up at the school her children once attended.
“We’ve known who he is for years, and I’ve just been in awe of everything he’s done,” Embody said, referring to Bodenheimer.
They met at a gala event last year, and Embody found him to be both inspiring and down-to-earth.
As president of ESPN for more than a dozen years, Bodenheimer led the company through a period of expansion, including launching high definition, Spanish language and college sports networks to grow the brand.
Often cited in most-influential lists of sports executives, he got his start as a mailroom clerk at the network, and left the position of president in 2012 to become the network’s executive chairman.
Embody is glad to have someone of his caliber speaking to the community, especially local children. Sometimes they need positive messages from someone other than their parents, she said. And finding the right person to deliver a thought-provoking message isn’t easy.
“In this day and age, it’s really hard to find someone with good character and ethics and integrity that you want your kids to look up to,” she said.
Bodenheimer is that good-character influence for both children and adults, Embody said. Her children are in their 20s, but the speech from Valvano and the V Foundation still resonates with her family.
She hopes for a good turnout for Bodenheimer at the Carrollwood Day School Theatre, and is glad to have him speak at the school her children attended, and where they were first given that inspirational speech to recite.
“It’s sort of where our story really took root with the V Foundation,” Embody said.
Copies of Bodenheimer’s book will be available for purchase at the event.
For more information, call the school at (813) 920-2288, or visit CarrollwoodDaySchool.org.
Published November 18, 2015