(LOS ANGELES) — Racecar driver Danica Patrick became the first female host of the ESPYs Wednesday night. But that achievement wasn’t the only moment that will have people talking tomorrow, later this week — and even for years to come.
The “hero” Parkland coaches, an embattled Hall of Fame football player and 141 sexual abuse survivors all were honored in a very heartfelt, empowering awards show.
Here are the top highlights:
Danica’s big night
“It’s true the ESPYs have never had a host like me before,” she said. “For the last 25 years, the ESPYs have been about celebrating the magic of sports.”
But Patrick didn’t shy away from telling her fair share of jokes, some of which were aimed at sports icons in the room.
She made fun of Cleveland, Odell Beckham Jr.’s hairstyle and more.
“Speaking of other countries, congrats to France on winning the World cup,” she said. “I’d make a joke about the U.S. soccer team, but they didn’t qualify for this monologue.”
The NBA’s elite weren’t safe either, as Patrick joked about King LeBron James himself, going below the belt when she made fun of his losing his hair. She then explained when James hosted in the past, he picked on her, too.
Pat Tillman Award For Service
Funnyman Jon Stewart took the stage to present a very serious award.
Former Marine and college football star Jake Wood, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was honored for organizing veterans and first responders to Haiti to help in 2010 after a severe earthquake rocked the island.
That led to his starting his nonprofit Team Rubicon, which, years later, has thousands of veterans and volunteers around the globe.
The organization doesn’t just save lives in disaster zones, including Houston and Puerto Rico, but it also gives veterans purpose and meaning and saves their lives as well.
“Being able to share our stories and know you’re not alone … we couldn’t do it without each other,” one veteran said during a special clip.
The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance goes to Jim Kelly
Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who’s battled cancer several times over the past five years, was honored with the award named after the legendary late basketball coach.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as Kelly spoke about his late son, Hunter, and his battle with cancer.
“My faith [is] in the good lord that he has plans for my life,” Kelly said. “My wife, Jill, you are my heart, you are my soul, you are my everything.”
He also inspired the room about “being a difference-maker,” adding: “If you have somebody out there suffering, it doesn’t have to be cancer … the smile on your face, that can be the difference … like Jimmy V said, ‘Don’t ever give up!'”
Stoneman Douglas High School honors coaches
Another somber yet inspiring moment came later in the evening, when the three coaches killed during the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were honored with the Best Coach Award.
Aaron Feis, Scott Beigel and Chris Hixon all gave their lives to save students earlier this year.
Former high school athletes and students talked about how these coaches “changed lives” and later died saving them.
Student after student talked about the mentors, heroes and friends they knew in these three amazing men.
Abuse survivors stand strong
The big moment of the night came when 141 abuse victims of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar took the stage after sharing their powerful and empowering stories.
After a powerful video detailing the abuse they all suffered, the 141 woman all took the stage to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. It was a moment that likely will be talked about for decades.
“It is a privilege to stand up here with my sister survivors, as we represent hundreds more that are not with us tonight,” said Sarah Klein, who was victimized by Nassar 30 years ago.
Klein called tonight “a portrait of survival, a new vision of courage.”