Devon and Leah Still entered our lives last year, when we watched one of their Instagram videos and became aware of Leah’s fight against Neuroblastoma. The stage 4 cancer kept the 5-year-old beauty in and out of the hospital as she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Tonight, their story was broadcast into the living rooms of millions as Devon Still accepted the 2015 Jimmy V. Perseverance Award at the ESPYS.
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There wasn’t a dry eye in the Microsoft Theater as Devon detailed he and his family’s struggle with Leah’s cancer.
“We had two options: we could have lost faith and let this battle get the best of us, or I could give my daughter’s cancer a purpose,” he said.
He went on to thank his coaches, who stood by him and allowed him to put football second to his daughter’s life, his wife, who he promised a big wedding and last but not least, Leah.
“My beautiful daughter, I know you wish you could be here, but I know you’re watching,” Still said. “I just want to thank you. From the moment you was born you molded me into the man I am today. And you know I always used to dream about how I was going to be able to show you so much about life. But in the five years I’ve been with you you’ve taught me more about life than I could ever do. I love you and I’m just proud of the way you’ve been handling yourself this past year.”
Leah made an appearance at the end of her dad’s moving speech thanking fans for their support.
“Sorry I couldn’t be there everybody but thank you for supporting me while I beat up cancer,” she said bravely.
The Jimmy V. Perseverance Award is named after NC state’s men’s coach, the legendary Jimmy Valvano, whose emotional speech about his own battle with cancer in 1993 continues to be the powerful moment in ESPY Awards history. Past recipients include NBA coach George Karl and former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand. Last year’s Jimmy V. Perseverance Award recipient, the late Stuart Scott left an imprint on sports fans around the world with his incredible message: “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner by which you live.”
We continue to pray for Leah and all those suffering through battles with cancer.