Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still and his 5-year-old daughter Leah will be honored with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award on July 15 at the ESPYs.
Tuesday will mark the one-year anniversary of Leah’s diagnosis with stage-4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer. A few weeks after the diagnosis, Still decided to go public with it in the hope of awareness and money in an effort to find a cure.
He has done hundreds of interviews while trying to balance the time demands of being an NFL player with being by his daughter’s side as much as possible.
"This award is a testament to the inspiration Devon and Leah are to all the families who are suffering from similar circumstances,” said ESPYs executive producer Maura Mandt. “It is our hope that with this award we can send them more strength as they face this latest challenge.”
Still announced the latest challenge this weekend on Instagram, posting a prayer request because a complication had developed with Leah’s stem cell transplant.
“We hit a pretty serious complication from the stem cell transplant called VOD. They caught it early so hopefully it gives the doctors a better chance of stopping it from getting aggressive. As you can imagine our minds are all over the place but we're going to try and remain positive! #LeahStrong”
Leah turned 5 in May and shortly after that Still announced the cancer was in remission and the transplant would help her body create more bone marrow.
It’s another blow in what has been a turbulent year for the Stills, but through all the complications the two found time to write a children's book, "I am Leah Strong" that they hope will help kids and families who find themselves in the same fight against pediatric cancer.
Their positive attitude and contributions to the cause are exactly what the Jimmy V award is about. It's named for former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano, who gave an inspirational speech about battling cancer at the 1993 ESPYs two months before passing away.
“The perseverance that Devon and Leah have shown throughout this unfortunate process is incredibly moving,” said Connor Schell, senior vice president, ESPN Films and Original Content, who oversees The ESPYS. “Each day that she fights, her father is by her side and their love and strength has captivated all of us in the sports world and beyond."