While many people know Dick Vitale for his long-running basketball commentary on ESPN, more importantly, he considers his work to raise money for pediatric cancer research. As Vitale told AA earlier this year, he is “totally obsessed” with that effort. And the latest manifestation of that was the 16th annual Dick Vitale Gala, held Friday night in Sarasota, Florida, where Vitale raised $ 6.5 million, even more than the $ 5 million goal he set. Here’s more about it from Doug Fernandes of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune:
But with the pandemic that forced many to tighten their wallets, and with the reduced attendance at this year’s Gala cutting deep into the gist of the event – a table of eight costs $ 10,000 – Vitale had no choice but to take turn up the heat.
In tears he said he was sorry.
“Begging and begging for dollars because of the pandemic,” Vitale said. “I want to apologize to so many people.” He was referring to a note he had received from a parent: “Please keep doing what you are doing,” it said. “Because I don’t want to be one of the moms and dads who put on suits and go to a funeral for my child.”
“The stories I hear,” said Vitale. ‘A lot of people just don’t get it. They don’t understand (childhood cancer) is striking and it’s brutal what it does. People are constantly praising me like they did here. I don’t deserve that praise. “
One of this year’s featured accolades was Vitale’s ESPN colleague Scott Van Pelt (seen above at the event with Vitale). He had quite a few comments about the event and Vitale to Fernandes:
“He’s one of them,” he said. ‘There is no one like that man. Many of you, including myself, got to know him because of basketball. But his legacy in the world is not basketball. It is this. It’s tonight. It is his special passion.
‘I have no idea what I’m being honored for. I don’t feel worthy, but I feel moved and honored to be here and give my voice, my time, and my support for this cause. Five million dollars. That’s what Dick wants to get and I’m here to do everything I can to make sure the number starts with the five. “
A lot of what we cover in the sports world is generally pretty silly, but there are also things that really make a huge difference. And Vitale’s galas, which have now raised a total of more than $ 44 million for childhood cancer research, certainly seem to fall into that category. It’s cool to see that these are still happening, and they are making a difference. And they also present a fun opportunity for some of the kids who are survivors, such as with Vitale’s All-Courageous Team:
Here’s a statement Vitale AA sent about this year’s event:
“I am amazed at all the people who have responded in such a positive way to help us raise $ 6.5 million for children fighting cancer. A big thank you to Mary Kenealy and Janet Allen for their great work as they had to deal with a lot of rules due to the pandemic. Also a thank you to Shane Jacobson, our new CEO, who has been really positive in his desire to get us funding from corporate and university pediatric cancer research groups. “
“Now a heartfelt thanks to everyone who joined our team and donated $ 100 or more. Every dollar makes a difference, but I must express my heartfelt thanks to those who went much further. Every championship team needs role players to win and must also have stars. Yes, my national champion team was made up of fantastic role-players, and I had several superstars in Mark Pentecost and Mat Ishbia. Mark and his wife Cindy are utter gold superstars every year because they have been so generous with seven-figure donations for years, with Mark the founder and CEO of IT Works. This year, Mat Ishbia joined us, a business leader who has taken United Wholesale Mortgage to great heights, who has joined the 7-digit club to donate. “
Also major donors to six figures such as Constellations, Jeff Vinik and the Lightning, Buster Posey, Craig and Joellen Mettille, Dan Doyle, Derek Thompson, WWE Stephanie McMahon, Cody Foster, University of Florida Pediatric Research and Richard Wahl. Yes, I am amazed how all the people at The V Foundation have assisted us with our goals of providing funding for pediatric cancer research! I love everything that is in our team! Let’s get started rolling May 6, 2022 and our 17th annual gala. Remember you can donate at dickvitale.com. “
These events do a lot to raise the profile of pediatric cancer research and to raise money for that research. And it’s cool to see this is such an ongoing passion for Vitale. A lot of good comes out of this, and it is nice to see such a prominent sports figure still being so invested in an important charity.
[The Sarasota Herald-Tribune; photos supplied by Dick Vitale]