For a small group of ESPN employees, summer represents all of that, plus an opportunity to make a difference in the fight against cancer while creating a unique opportunity for sports fans across the country to join in the cause.
ESPN Radio’s seventh annual “Don’t Give Up ESPYs V Foundation Auction” is underway and runs through Wednesday, July 13.
It’s an 11-day online and on-air public auction featuring hundreds of items and experiences for bid to raise money and awareness for The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
The charity event, which has raised more than $4.1 million in its first six years, is the creation of Keith Goralski [in inline below], Senior Director Events & Marketing for ESPN Radio.
While it remains his most high-profile V Foundation contribution, the motivation to beat cancer was planted many years before the first auction.
“Seeing my mother suffer from the lung cancer that took her life at 43 was unbearable,” said Goralski.
“Everybody I know has been affected by cancer in one way or another. I started working at ESPN shortly after Jimmy Valvano passed away and was so motivated by his ESPYs speech and his passion to find a cure that I had to somehow get involved.”
Winning bidders have received a luxury vehicle, a Mike & Mike in the Morning broadcast originating from their house, VIP and behind-the-scenes access to professional and college sports events, autographed memorabilia, and even their head on a stick on the Pardon The Interruption set.
This year, fans can bid to have their local sporting event produced and streamed live on ESPN3.com, ESPN’s live sports broadband network available in some 70 million homes.
“The idea to have ESPN3.com stream a fan’s local game live came from a colleague in our digital media group,” said Goralski.
“We worked diligently to make it happen for this year and are thrilled we were able to pull it off. It’s such a novel idea. I look forward to seeing what we end up with on the network.”
A majority of the more than 200 experiences and items in the auction are available online via www.espnradio.com or www.ebay.com while 18 fan “experiences” will be auctioned in an 18-hour radiothon across ESPN Radio’s six national shows on Wednesday, beginning at 6 a.m. ET.
The four locally owned and operated stations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago will follow the same format during local programming, adding another 12 local experiences to the list.
Listeners can call 1-800-4JimmyV to make bids on items with the highest bidder at 59 minutes past each hour winning the experience.
Goralski discusses how he came up with the annual auction idea, his favorite aspect of the fundraiser, if he actually bids on any himself and more.
FR: How did you come up with the idea seven years ago to do this?
Goralski: There are so many local fundraisers that are successful in this industry. When I took the idea to my boss at the time and to my colleague, Pete Gianesini, Senior Director of Programming, they both immediately supported the idea of creating something, but we wanted it to be unique to ESPN Radio. We wanted to do more than just raise money. We wanted to tell stories. The auction portion of the fundraiser is unique in that we have the ability to bring fans to ESPN and to view shows, meet our talent and experience the campus. Being here on a daily basis we sometimes forget the value in being able to offer such an experience to fans who are also willing to make substantial donations to The V Foundation in exchange for an experience of a lifetime.
FR: How many people are on the “Don’t Give Up ESPYs V Foundation Auction” team?
Goralski: We currently have about 15 people throughout the Audio Division who make some kind of contribution to the event, such as creating experiences or gathering items, but this event could never happen without the year-round dedication of colleagues Amanda Gifford and Kelly Carey. There is a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work and dedication to the year-long follow-through on experiences for winning bidders — the communication process with other ESPN entities and professional franchises, travel procedures, organization of the events, etc. There is just so much that goes into it and Amanda and Kelly are the heart and soul of the entire process.
FR: What has been your most enjoyable or proud moment from the auctions?
Goralski: We raised more than $1.1 million in 2008 and nothing felt better than to contact ESPN president George Bodenheimer, our corporate outreach executive Rosa Gatti, my bosses Traug Keller and Mo Davenport, and The V Foundation’s Nick Valvano, John Leshney and Joyce Aschenbrenner the day after our on-air auction with the news The V Foundation would be receiving those funds for cancer research grants. That obviously never gets old and is the reason we do what we do.
FR: Do you have any particular goals you would like to accomplish or reach?
KG: Our goal is to always drive as much money as possible to The V Foundation while also reaching as many new supporters as we can. I am always open to new ideas on how to accomplish that. To this point, our most unique experience has been Mike & Mike broadcasting from a fan’s home, which we just did last month in New Jersey and was a great event. I really think we can drive more attention to The V Foundation by creating more events of that distinction.
FR: What has been your favorite item or experience over the years?
Goralski: My favorites are always experience-related because they create personal memories. Currently, we have one available where a winning bidder and their guest will spend a day at the NFL Films offices with Ron Jaworski. Think about that… several hours of watching NFL films with Jaws and he will conduct a game breakdown of your favorite team. Really cool.
FR: Have you ever bid on an item?
Goralski: Many times! I am currently the highest-bidder on three of our on-line auction items. But nobody likes being outbid more than I do!
FR: Have you ever thought about changing the format or doing something completely different?
Goralski: We take time every year to evaluate all aspects of the event and do our best to make any necessary tweaks that would enhance it. George [Bodenheimer, President, ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports] and Rosa asked me to find a way to integrate the event into the overall fundraising efforts of ESPYs week and we believe we are gaining some steam there. By having ESPYs week in July and Jimmy V Week in December, the company is able to provide the kind of attention and fundraising efforts to The V Foundation that Jimmy Valvano had alluded to during his ESPYs speech.