For IMMEDIATE Release March 10, 2004
“Comeback Award Finalists Announced”
Award presented by The V Foundation for Cancer Research and ESPN
Cary, NC --- The V Foundation for Cancer Research today announced the finalists for
the fourth annual V Foundation Comeback Award. The award is presented in partnership with ESPN
and will be announced during ESPN’s basketball Final Four/NIT weekend coverage.
The finalists are: Delvar Barrett, Ohio University; Darrahyl Brown, Kalamazoo Valley
Community College; Noah Brown, Appalachian State University; Jamie Carey, University of
Texas; Martha Chaput, Drake University; Dax Crum, Arizona Western College; Grant Dykstra,
Western Washington University; Brandon Jones, Franklin & Marshall College; Brittney Kroon,
Seattle Pacific University; Michael Lovern, St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Lindsay Meek,
Baldwin-Wallace College; Brendon Merritt, Eastern Washington University; Ryan Odaffer,
Pittsburg State University; Charles Tatum, University of Arkansas.
The award is given annually to a collegiate level basketball student-athlete, male or female, who has
accomplished a personal triumph in the face of true adversity, be it in health, life, or moral dilemma.
The award is presented in memory of Jim Valvano, late basketball coach and ESPN commentator,
whose personal battle with cancer inspired the creation of The V Foundation. In his memorable
speech at ESPN’s inaugural ESPY Awards announcing the creation of The V Foundation, Valvano’s
“Don’t Give Up. . .Don’t Ever Give Up!”® motto created a legacy from which the Comeback Award has
“I never cease to be amazed at the incredible strength and resilience of the young people who are
nominated for The V Foundation Comeback Award every year,” said Foundation CEO Nick Valvano.
“This award is very special to us not only because it recognizes young people who are outstanding
student-athletes in their own right, but each has also faced tremendous adversity and challenges with
incredible determination and strength.
“Every single one of these finalists truly captures the spirit of what embodies The V Foundation, the
Never Give Up attitude which symbolizes their individual comebacks,” Valvano continued. “I would
be honored to have my brother’s name be remembered with each and every one of them.”
Past recipients of the award are Purdue’s Katie Douglas (2001), Western Michigan’s Kristin
Koetsier (2002) and the 2003 recipient Justin Allen of Arizona State.
More than 50 student-athletes were nominated by their institutions for the 2004 V Foundation
Comeback Award. The finalists represent a wide range of compelling stories of young men and
women from all types of universities, basketball programs and personal challenges. The recipient
will be selected by an eight-member sub-committee of The V Foundation Board of Directors.
Contacts: For The V Foundation: Joyce Aschenbrenner (email@example.com) 919-380-9505
For ESPN: Josh Krulewitz (firstname.lastname@example.org) 860-766-2319
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano. The
Foundation has raised more than $32 million and has awarded 191 cancer research grants nationwide. The
Foundation operates efficiently, with 85 cents of every dollar raised, available directly for research. To learn
more about The V Foundation for Cancer Research, visit our website at www.jimmyv.org.
The V Foundation for Cancer Research▪ 100 Towerview Court ▪ Cary, NC 27513 ▪ 919-380-9505
Comeback award. . .add 1
2004 V Foundation Comeback Award Finalists:
Delvar Barrett, Ohio University – Senior – fulfills the many responsibilities that face a student-athlete
while also serving as primary caregiver of his mother, Vivian, who is blind. Both Vivian and Delvar suffer
from diabetes, which impacts their lives in countless ways. On the court he has enjoyed a steady senior
season after missing much of his junior year with an ankle injury.
Darrahyl Brown, Kalamazoo Valley Community College – Freshman – all-conference in both
basketball and football in high school, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Disease. During 12 rounds of
chemotherapy, he still completed his degree and while still physically weak, enrolled at Kalamazoo Valley and
tried out for the basketball squad. In spite of a severe ankle sprain and a recently twisted knee, he’s averaging
13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds on an 18-6 squad and is ranked in the top five in field goal percentage nationally
in NJCAA Division II competition.
Noah Brown, Appalachian State University – Senior – sustained four broken fingers and several
other broken bones in his left hand, as well as other injuries in a severe auto accident in 2002. Following two
surgeries on his hand and months of physical therapy, he returned to ASU and this season leads the team in
scoring and three-point shooting, highlighted by a career-high 35-point game and school record 9 three-point
shots in a game in January.
Jamie Carey, University of Texas – Junior – has shown incredible perseverance through personal
injury setbacks, as a series of concussions and post-concussion symptoms forced her to retire from Division I
basketball play at Stanford. Following the suicide death of her only sibling, she transferred to Texas,
relentlessly pursued independent medical specialists to regain medical clearance as well as her NCAA
eligibility, to get back into school and onto the basketball court; led Texas to the 2003 Final Four and is a
finalist for several national player-of-the year and Academic All-America awards.
Martha Chaput, Drake University –Senior – survived Hodgkin’s disease three years ago, dealt with the
death of her father last spring and made the transition to her third head coach at Drake this past fall. Has
defied all obstacles and earned a starting role for the Bulldogs in her senior year and selected by her
teammates as a team captain.
Dax Crum, Arizona Western College – Freshman -- attended Arizona Western on a soccer
scholarship but doggedly pursued a spot on the basketball squad. Rejected a suggestion to red shirt to hone
his skills; instead played “mop-up” and did not travel to road games. Since then he has worked his way into
the regular rotation. Of note is the fact that he was born with only a left hand. His right hand never fully
developed and he only has the use of a small thumb on his right hand. He has overcome major obstacles in
his life because of his disability and his persistence in basketball is a statement of his character and his
tremendous desire to excel.
Grant Dykstra, Western Washington University – Sophomore -- 13 surgeries saved his right arm
from amputation after it was caught in a grain auger at age 2. In all, he endured 16 surgeries including a
technique of sewing his arm to his stomach to graft skin to the injured limb, as well as years of therapy to
regain strength and movement in his arm and hand. Full use never returned so the natural right hander
learned to play left-handed. Excelled in high school and has started the last 50 games for the Vikings.
Brandon Jones, Franklin & Marshall College – Senior – battled back from a degenerative disc
condition in his back which often left him without feeling in his legs and excruciating pain before and after
physical activity. Played his junior season with two herniated discs, ignoring the pain in his lower torso; had
surgery in the off season; due to extensive rehabilitation was unable to start the season with his squad, so he
accepted a position as a student-coach under NCAA Division III win leader Glenn Robinson. His dream of
once again playing came true as he was inserted in a home game on February 20th to play the final minutes of
his collegiate basketball career.
Brittney Kroon, Seattle Pacific University – Sophomore – was on the national liver transplant list
two years ago after being diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis (where the body’s immune system attacks its
Comeback. . .add 2
own liver). A pager to alert her of a matching donor was activated but undetected while she was playing in
the Alaska state high school championship game. In March 2002 another donor was identified and a
successful surgery took place. She has not only recovered, but as a sophomore is the starting center on an
undefeated (23-0) and No.3 (NCAA Division II) ranked squad. Leads the nation in shot-blocking while
averaging 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Michael Lovern, St. Mary’s College of Maryland – Junior – a high school star who left college in his
freshman season due to recurring back problems. After enrolling in St. Mary’s an abnormal growth on his
spinal column was found during an x-ray for a physical. Testing located a tennis ball sized tumor on his spine
and further tests found the growth wrapping itself around his spine. The growth was removed during 22
hours of surgery in September 2002. His rehab included re-learning to walk; sustained a setback when he
developed a pulmonary embolism. Slowly advanced again through rehab to regain lost motor skills; returned
to school, “walked on” to the basketball team and has since continued to play college ball.
Lindsay Meek, Baldwin-Wallace College – Senior – returned to the basketball court last winter after
taking several years off from school and sports, facing the challenge of dealing with the death of her twin
sister from cancer. At age 28 and married, she enrolled in Baldwin-Wallace to finish the collegiate experience
she began 10 years ago. Played through most of her first season back with a torn ACL. This season she has
played in all 18 games, has helped the squad to another national ranking, while pursuing her dream to become
a teacher and a coach.
Brendon Merritt, Eastern Washington University – Senior – has played through injuries his entire
life. Was one week old when he endured the first of some 20-surgeries, operations on his ears, ankle, arm
and back and others related to being born with a cleft palate. His toughness as a youngster has paid off in a
strong career at Eastern Washington, while enduring a knee injury , a dislocated shoulder, an injured hip, as
well as playing the first eight games of the season with a heavily bandaged hand to protect a broken bone in
his right hand. This, after missing last season following off-season back surgery. Still, he averages 12.8 ppg in
Big Sky Conference games, is fourth in the Conference in free-throw percentage and has compiled solid
season and career stats and was recently named MVP of the Big Sky Tournament.
Ryan Odaffer, Pittsburg State University – Junior – has battled a somewhat rare chronic illness,
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a rheumatic disease that primarily attacks the spine, back and joints, since the
age of 14. AS attacks have primarily struck his lower extremities – his knees and more frequently his ankles.
Caused inflammation in his joints and ligaments, leaving him in a wheelchair and then on crutches. It also
attacks his immune system leaving him vulnerable to ailments such as influenza and pneumonia. Followed an
outstanding high school career to become a freshman starter at Pittsburg State. During his sophomore
season, the disease began to show signs of reoccurrence with early symptoms, including mononucleosis. He
also sustained a stress fracture (foot) and a wrist injury, as well as a nasty bladder infection and recurring back
problems. AS returned in full his junior season. Now a red shirt junior, he has returned to his team, has
gotten his body back into shape, and while his body has repeated itself with medical complications, he has
repeatedly worked his way back onto the court.
Charles Tatum, University of Arkansas – Senior – in his first three years at Arkansas, he was forced
to deal with the loss of two close family members as well as the departure of the coach he signed with, and
the adjustment to a new coaching staff. Prior to his senior season, he suffered a bigger blow, tearing
ligaments and cartilage in his right knee, a complete dislocation of the knee and his kneecap slipped off to the
side. According to a team doctor, “It looked like a grenade had gone off in there.” Ligaments were rebuilt
with the Achilles tendon from a cadaver and his anterior cruciate ligament from his own hamstring. Twelve
months of rehab started in a wheelchair and several months on crutches, eventually leaving him 25 pounds
lighter and with the right leg significantly smaller than the left. Has rejoined the team and is a solid
contributor averaging 9 minutes per game.
Contact information for individual nominees attached.
For additional information on finalists contact:
Delvar Barrett, Ohio University: Derek Scott (email@example.com) 740-593-0834
Darrahyl Brown, Kalamazoo Valley Community College: Dick Shilts, 269-488-4393
Noah Brown, Appalachian State University: Kelby Siler (firstname.lastname@example.org) 828-262-2268
Jamie Carey, University of Texas: Barb Kowal (email@example.com) 512-471-9801
Martha Chaput, Drake University: Mary Ann Tierney (firstname.lastname@example.org) 515-271-4147
Dax Crum, Arizona Western College: Kelly Green (Kelly.email@example.com) 928-344-7535
Grant Dykstra, Western Washington University: Paul Madison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Brandon Jones, Franklin & Marshall College: Edward Haas (email@example.com)
Brittney Kroon, Seattle Pacific University: Frank MacDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org) 206-281-2741
Michael Lovern, St. Mary’s College of Maryland: Shawne McCoy (email@example.com)
Lindsay Meek, Baldwin-Wallace College: Kevin Ruple (firstname.lastname@example.org) 440-826-2327
Brendon Merritt, Eastern Washington University: Dave Cook (email@example.com) 509-359-6334
Ryan Odaffer, Pittsburg State University: Dan Wilkes (firstname.lastname@example.org) 620-235-4147
Charles Tatum, University of Arkansas: Robby Edwards (email@example.com) 479-575-2751
The V Foundation for Cancer Research: Joyce Aschenbrenner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ESPN: Josh Krulewitz (email@example.com) 860-766-2319