7th Annual Dickie V Gala is a success

The 7th Annual Dickie V Gala helped raise more than $1.6 million for cancer research. Courtesy of Dick Vitale

All I can say is, thank you to all of the people involved in the seventh annual Dickie V Gala!

Sarasota was the sports capital of the world, and it all benefited 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.

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, was so happy as she beat cancer. Kyle Peters, who was a Little League star who has won his biggest battle to date, was there. Jacob Raleigh, a tennis player who showed so much courage after losing his arm to cancer, was there on my team. Nine-year-old Olivia Hamilton, who has endured so much, was there with her proud family. 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 in Lexington, Kentucky. 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 about Jimmy Valvano, how we need to win the war against cancer and how it has had a personal influence on them.

The room was filled with so many greats from the world of sports. There were so many college hoop coaches, like John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo, Bob Huggins, Mike Brey, Mark Gottfried, Brad Stevens, Scott Drew, Bryce Drew, Frank Martin, Fred Hoiberg, Joe Jones, Leonard Hamilton, Lorenzo Romar, Mark Fox, Ray McCallum, Stan Heath, Steve Alford, Tom Pecora and Steve Prohm. Former coaches like Fran Fraschilla, Gene Keady, Bill Raftery and Barry Rohrssen were there. The world of football was well represented by the likes of Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde, Warrick Dunn, Josh Freeman, Ricky Watters, Reggie Brooks, Skip Holtz and Vincent Jackson. Former NBA coaches like Mike Fratello and Richie Adubato were there. Players like Christian Laettner, Doug West, Alvin Williams and Adrian Branch were at the Ritz-Carlton.

It was a very emotional evening. I have really been touched by these kids who have fought 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.

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 Kennealy and her team, as well as my wife Lorraine and my family. To me, this was the best gala we have ever had and the big winner was cancer research.