Stuart Scott, the legendary ESPN host, died of a rare form of cancer in January 2015

By Jason Duaine Hahn
July 02, 2020 04:30 PM
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In July 2014, legendary ESPN anchor Stuart Scott delivered an emotional speech at the ESPYs while battling a rare form of cancer.

While accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance that night, Scott told the audience, "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live." It would become one of the most powerful moments in the history of the awards show.

Less than six months later, Scott — a pioneer of the industry known for his charisma and catchphrases — succumbed to appendiceal cancer at age 49.

To his daughters, Sydni and Taelor Scott, their father's moment at the ESPYs served as a reflection of the strength they saw all of their lives at home.

"He still managed to command that stage with so much grace and presence, and that was exactly how he was off the stage," Sydni, 20, tells PEOPLE.

"He was a lot goofier, but he had a presence about him that never faded ever, like ever. It was really incredible to be around him," she continues. "That was the blessing, that I got to spend time with the father that I knew all of my life up until the very last minute."

Sydni and 25-year-old Taelor are now ambassadors for the V Foundation to help raise funds for cancer research through the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund. The fund recently received a $1 million dollar donation that has raised the total number of grants they have distributed to $11 million.

Taelor Scott, Stuart Scott and Sydni Scott
EUGENE MIM /Patrick McMullan via Getty

"One of the things our dad really instilled in us was the value in paying it forward," Taelor, who graduated from Barnard College in 2019, tells PEOPLE of the opportunity to help others going through the daunting journey of a cancer diagnosis.

"The fact that I'm a part of something that is striving so tirelessly to make sure that the next little girl doesn't have to feel the way that I did," adds Sydni. "I couldn't ask for more than that. I want the next girl to have another birthday with her dad."

Since joining the foundation, the sisters have met many others who have been diagnosed or have lost a loved one due to cancer. This, they say, has helped them manage the grief they still feel from their father's absence.

"You realize you're not alone," Taelor says. "And you start to think about the fact that the only way to make anything of this pain would be to continue working so people get to spend more time with their families going forward. There's just a pride that comes along with that."

"We hope sharing our story touches people and reminds them how close we really are," she continues. "I think meeting other people who had similar experiences as us, that has been how I felt most helpful."

One of the things the sisters say they are most proud of when it comes to their father is how, as a Black anchor on one of the country's most-watched networks, he was able to blaze a path for other journalists and people of color. He was able to do this by sheer force of personality and unwillingness to be anything other than himself.

Helping communities of color remains at the heart of the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund, and grants used to help minority groups who are disproportionately affected by cancer when compared to whites.

Members of minority racial groups are more likely to experience financial difficulties and be medically underserved, which contributes to this disparity, according to the National Cancer Institute. The organization also lists behavioral risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity as other factors.

But the foundation goes a step further when addressing these issues by giving grant funds to researchers of color.

"Grant money goes to research that predominantly affects minorities, and additionally, it gives money to minority researchers who now are given the tools to tackle issues in their community," Taelor explains.

"It's really incredible to me how the degree to which it's multifaceted, and that's the thing that's really exciting to be a part of," she adds.

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It's this continued journey to carry on their father's work that is so immensely special for both Taelor and Sydni.

"There is nothing that is going to alleviate that grief and that pain, but the ability to pursue what it was that he was passionate about and continue his legacy in a way that is not just his sports," Sydni says of the mission of the V Foundation. "I never want to understate how impactful that is and how important it is."