Sarasota was the sports capital of the world, and it all benefitted pediatric cancer research. We netted a record amount, over $1.6 million, as the Sarasota Ritz Carlton ballroom was packed on a very special evening.
All I can say is, thank you to all of the people involved in the seventh annual Dick Vitale Gala! I was thrilled and touched by an event that included an incredible donation of a half-million dollars by an anonymous donor! All I can say about that is W-O-W!
One of the great thrills was to introduce my special team, a number of cancer survivors who were in attendance. There was Ashley Krueger, who looked absolutely beautiful. Tatum Parker, who put so many smiles on the faces in the crowd. Kyle Peters, who was a little league star who has won his biggest battle to date. Jacob Raleigh, a tennis player who showed so much courage after losing his arm to cancer. Nine year old Olivia Hamilton, who has endured so much, was there with her proud family.
I have really been touched by these kids who have fought so hard in the war against cancer. No child should have to go through chemotherapy; they should be outside, playing sports and enjoying themselves. That is why I am so passionate about this battle.
My associate head coach for the team was St. John’s Steve Lavin, also a cancer survivor. My head coach was Rollie Massimino, whose Villanova Wildcats pitched a perfect game to win the national championship in 1985. Rollie has been winning the fight against lung cancer.
I cannot thank the honorees enough. Lou Holtz, Jay Wright and Gary Williams all gave great speeches. The room was filled with so many greats from the world of sports. There were so many college coaches like John Calipari, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo. The world of football was well represented by the likes of Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde, Warrick Dunn, Josh Freeman, Ricky Watters and Vincent Jackson. Former NBA coaches Mike Fratello and Richie Adubato were there. Players like Christian Laettner, Doug West, Alvin Williams and Adrian Branch were there as well.
Jimmy V’s legacy has been to fight this dreaded disease so that someday we will have a cure. There have been so many breakthroughs with cancer research, so many positive stories that would have never happened without the dollars raised by the V Foundation and the grants given to great hospitals, doctors and researchers.
I truly appreciate all the support and help. This event would have never happened without the love and effort of Mary Kenealy and her team, as well as my wife Lorraine. To me, this was the best gala we have ever had and the big winner was cancer research. Thanks to all involved in this wonderful evening.