Sadly, Leah Still wasn’t feeling well enough to attend the ESPY Awards to accept the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. However, her father, Devon, held down the fort and accepted the award on her behalf. Watch his touching speech here.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the building when Devon Still, 26, went up to accept the Jimmy V Perseverance Award on behalf of his daughter Leah Still, 4, on July 15. Although the young girl couldn’t make it to the show due to her weak immune system, Leah was there in spirit and even sent her dad with a message to everyone in the room.
After receiving the award from LeBron James, 30, who is also her favorite player, Devon gave a touching speech about his 4-year-old daughter’s unbreakable spirit even though she was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer, stage four neuroblastoma. His daughter was diagnosed at such a young age, Devon couldn’t quite understand why. “I would beg [God] to give me the fight with death rather than my daughter,” he said in his speech. “At the age of 4, my daughter hadn’t even began to understand what life was all about.”
The Cincinnati Bengals player told a heartbreaking story in the middle of his speech. “I remember one night in the hospital, she just started putting things in her stomach and putting it in mine,” he recalled that moment Devon remembered asking her what she was doing at that moment. “She said, ‘Dad, I’m taking the cancer from me and giving it all to you.’ I started breaking down right there.” His speech brought awareness to Leah’s situation as well as others who are going through the same thing.
Before he ended the speech, Devon announced to the crowd that even though his daughter couldn’t be there due to her weak immune system, she had a message for everyone. Leah’s face was projected onto the big screen and she thanked everyone in the crowd. Leah was diagnosed with a form of pediatric cancer in 2013, but as of late March 2015, she is currently in remission. The 4-year-old still continues to receive post-cancer radiation treatment to get her immune system back to normal. Devon’s daughter recently made it back home after her 50-day stay in the hospital was extended due to complications from a medicine she was taking.
The young girl’s perseverance to fight the illness is what prompted the show to honor her and her father with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award. “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 in a statement. “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.”
HollywoodLifers, what did you think of Devon’s touching acceptance speech?
— Michelle Phi