Sarasota, Florida was the sports capital on May 6th.
The 17th annual Dick Vitale Gala raised money for pediatric cancer research on Friday night, with a goal to raise at least $7 million to boost the overall number over $50 million over 17 years.
The generosity exceeded all expectations. The event, which included four raffles for cars, a live auction, plus several huge donations in excess of $1 million, raised a record amount of giving over the $11 million mark.
I was totally blown away by the generosity of our sold-out crowd that responded in a big way to our message of the desperate need for dollars to aid pediatric cancer research. It was a night filled with emotion and one that lived up to the words of my buddy Jimmy V from his legendary speech. Jimmy said every day you should be moved to tears, laughter and spend time in thought. Trust me -- our crowd of 900 felt those emotions during the entire night.
To all that donated I say THANK YOU for helping young kids in need of new medicines and treatments.
The gala had over 70 celebrities in attendance among the 900 that filled the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton. It was a special evening as the honorees included tennis legend Chris Evert (who has herself battled ovarian cancer), former NFL great Keyshawn Johnson, Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew and John Saunders Courage Award winner Rod Gilmore. Evert, Johnson, Drew and Gilmore each gave emotional speeches that were well-received by the audience.
The group also included a who's who from the college basketball profession, led by Drew, Iona coach Rick Pitino, former Villanova coach Jay Wright, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes, Florida coach Todd Golden, South Florida's Brian Gregory and St. John's coach Mike Anderson.
The world of football was well-represented with Johnson and Gilmore, Bucs coach Todd Bowles and former Florida, Ohio State and Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer.
The tennis world had big names like Evert, Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce and Nick Bolletierri there.
The WWE had the likes of Bobby Lashley, Liv Morgan, Shawn Michaels and Dana Brooke in attendance.
ESPN had its share of personalities present, including chairman Jimmy Pitaro, former president George Bodenheimer, former executives John Walsh and Steve Anderson along with college basketball executive David Ceisler.
On-air talent included Chris Fowler, Chris McKendry, Bob Wischusen, Rich Hollenberg, Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland.
It was a truly special event. Thank you on behalf of my fantastic team led by Mary Kenealy and Janet Allen. A major thank you to Shane Jacobson, CEO of the V Foundation and his staff for their incredible efforts in seeing that we get financial support for pediatrics. Next year, we will honor "The Admiral," David Robinson, Buster Posey, John and Patrick McEnroe and John Saunders Courage Award winner Derrick Whittenburg.
For more information on how to donate or join our team please visit dickvitaleonline.com. May God bless you with health and happiness!