Remarkable Women 2021 Finalist: Jamie Valvano creates her own legacy of survival and strength

My Carolina

This is the first of four Remarkable Women from across the Triangle you will meet this month on CBS17 and My Carolina. Then on April 1st, join the My Carolina team as they talk more about the amazing finalists and announce our area’s winner.

Today, Joanna Heims introduces us to Jamie Valvano.

Jamie Valvano has fond memories of her father, Jimmy Valvano, known to most as a broadcaster and legendary basketball coach.

Jamie describes the night her father and the NC State Wolfpack took home the 1983 NCAA Basketball Championship, “As a young girl watching your hero achieve that moment. Knowing that cutting down the nets was the thing he wanted to do more than anything. That image of him—I love it because he’s my Dad, but I also have recognized over the years that it is an image of hope to so many.”

But just 10 years after the biggest night of his life, the game changed on Jimmy and his family. Jamie tells us it was a lot to process, “To me it seemed like my Dad could do anything. I just could not even understand when the Doctor gave that terminal diagnosis – when he was told he had Cancer and probably less than a year to live.” 

Valvano’s fighting spirit fueled his 10 month long battle and inspired him to help others by creating the V Foundation for Cancer Research, knowing the life he would save would likely not be his own.

With two young kids at home, Jamie faced the scary reality of cancer once again, at times feeling defeated and discouraged. But she found strength in the team she created here at home.

“I heard (my father’s) voice say, ‘I left a legacy behind for you so that you could walk in my footsteps and survive, but also so you could create your own extraordinary legacy. You don’t just have to keep telling my story, it’s time to tell yours.’”, Valvano recalls. 

Just like her father, she found her own voice and started sharing her story of survival with others. Now her speeches help to inspire, empower and encourage others to reach for their greatest goals.

Meanwhile, at home, as Jamie’s health improved, her focus turned to her youngest son, Grant, a curious young boy facing a growing list of challenges.

Jamie recalls some scary moments at the doctor, “He was just a beautiful, perfect baby when he was born – as we took him to appointments, they kept telling us different things that he would be challenged with. They used words like developmental delay, optic nerve hyperplasia, ischemic stroke, cerebral palsy—it kept coming and coming. All these labels on my son.”

In the way only a mother can, Jamie found an outlet for her son that gave him hope—exercise!  As the mother-son pair continued to get stronger with the help of their trainer, Daniel Ellis, they invited others to join-in, even sharing workout videos online to take their message worldwide.

The duo created shirts and sweatshirts with their catchphrase, “3, 2, 1 BAHBAM!”, to sell so they could raise money for the Special Olympics.

When they’re not working out, Grant and his mother have another way to spread love– through handmade collages — each one custom-made and tailored to the recipient’s interests, and passions. These love collages started with local hand deliveries to special people in Grant’s life but quickly grew — now accepting requests, Grant is now sending them to people he’s never met.

Jamie says, “I see that mission being carried on that my Dad started, and I see that Grant can leave his own legacy as well. It’s extraordinary to see that and know that I’ve been blessed to know these two amazing men that changed my life.”

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