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Star studded Jimmy V event


May 8, 2006

Thank you, thank you, thank you ... I cannot say that enough after a memorable evening to raise money and awareness for the Jimmy V Foundation.

In a day and age where athletes and celebrities are often told they only care about themselves, our Evening With the Stars last Thursday was a major success. One reason the event was so positive was the unselfish nature of so many stars who made the journey to my home to help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the V Foundation.

None of the athletes or celebrities asked for a dime to attend. We did not pay their expenses, their hotel or airfare, and in many cases they also made a donation.

I'm talking about superstars like Scotty Bowman, who coached nine Stanley Cup championship teams; tennis guru Nick Bollettieri, who has coached the creme de la creme in Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, helping them win titles at the highest level.

Fred McGriff, with 493 career home runs and a Hall of Famer in my book, was there. So was All-Pro cornerback Ronde Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His mother fought and beat cancer. Another football star, former Charger tight end Kellen Winslow, was in attendance, as was former Washington Redskins running back and University of Michigan standout Jamie Morris. Former major league pitcher Tom Niedenfuer and his wife, actress Judy Landers were there.

Then there was Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan, coming off of his national championship. The Gators were well represented as football coach Urban Meyer was also in attendance. Fans got to meet Iowa coach Steve Alford, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, Memphis coach John Calipari, Villanova coach Jay Wright and Duke assistant and former National Player of the Year Johnny Dawkins.

My buddies from ESPN came through and were there too. Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, Steve Lavin, Fran Fraschilla, Dan Shulman, Lee Corso, Howie "Stump the" Schwab and John Saunders, who did a wonderful job as Master of Ceremonies for the event.

It was a night filled with lots of fun and many emotional moments. There was 11-year old Tim Berg, who has been battling a rare form of cancer. Through his own fundraising he came to the podium and presented a check to V Foundation CEO Nick Valvano and to yours truly for $10,000. It brought me to tears.

Berg had gone around to raise money because while undergoing chemotherapy, he saw a number of kids that weren't going to make it. He said he wanted to do something and help these kids out and his efforts were remarkable. His presentation brought tears to those in the house.

Then there was the emotional speech by Pam Valvano-Strasser. She read a letter from her daughter Jamie, which touched everyone there. Jamie is now battling breast cancer and had a double mastectomy a few months back. One highlight of the evening was the announcement of Jamie Valvano-Howard research grant of $1 million to battle breast cancer.

There were other research grants announced, including funds going to the Moffitt Cancer Center and the All Children's Hospital.

Anyone who would like to join us in the fight against the dreaded disease of cancer, please call 1-800-4-JIMMY-V. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.

Remember what Jimmy V said so eloquently. "Cancer can take away my physical abilities, but it can't touch my heart, my soul, my spirit and my mind. The dollars you raise won't save my life, but they will help save out children or someone you love."

As I told the crowd, remember this disease goes after all, whether white or black, rich or poor it doesn't matter. Understand one thing ... cancer is in its toughest fight because we are going to raise lots of dollars to combat this disease. We want to provide the opportunity to those in research to find a cure.

It was a night my wife Lorraine and I will always treasure. I know Jimmy V. would have been mighty proud. Let me tell you, the Evening with the Stars would not have happened, and over a quarter of a million dollars would not have been raised if it wasn't for the generosity and hard work of so many people.

I want to single out Mary Kenneally-Barbetta and her husband Joe, who helped so much with the event. The support of the V Foundation staff, led by Nick Valvano, Joyce Aschenbrenner, John Leshney and Melanie McCullough was so special. To put it into Vitalese, it was awesome, baby with a capital A!

It was really amazing and I can't thank the corporate giants and the stars from the world of sports and entertainment enough.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.