Behind The Scenes

Dick Vitale’s 8th Gala puts event’s contribution to The V Foundation at more than $10 million

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It’s almost 5 p.m. on Friday, May 17 and not surprisingly, Dick Vitale is a bundle of energy a few hours before his event starts.

As he arrives at the Sarasota, Fla. site of the 8th annual Dick Vitale Gala to support The V Foundation for Cancer Research, he’s overwhelmed with anticipation, pride and nerves. The Gala, which he and his wife, Lorraine, launched as a small gathering at their house less than a decade ago, has grown into a hotel ballroom-filling, celebrity-laden, night of inspiration and philanthropy.

With the amazing news that the Galas have now raised more than $10 million, including $1.7 million this year alone, it’s no wonder why the ESPN Hall of Fame commentator is emotional.

The event’s focus of funding research for pediatric cancer undoubtedly hits home with the grandfather of five.

“No parent should ever have to hear those dreaded words from a doctor: ‘Your child has cancer,’” said Vitale, fighting back tears, at the pre-event press conference. “Kids should be running around, laughing, having fun, playing ball. Not getting chemo or radiation treatments. It breaks my heart.”

To emphasize the importance of the cancer fight and the great progress being made, the Vitale Gala showcases the courageous stories of several families with children who are battling different forms of cancer and salutes them on stage with heartfelt tributes. More than 80 celebrities from sports and entertainment attended the Gala, including this year’s honorees Bobby Bowden, Jim Calhoun and Bill Self, as well as ESPN’s Dan Shulman — the event’s emcee.

The many poignant moments, such as when Vitale asks all cancer survivors to stand and dozens of people rise to the room’s heartfelt applause, contribute to the unforgettable impact this event has on the 850 attendees.

Through it all, the 73-year-old bundle of energy, who puts his heart and soul into the cause, leads by words and example.

“I am obsessed with this fight,” Vitale said. “I will beg and plead and go to war against cancer until my last breath.”

For more on the 2014 Dick Vitale Gala, visit the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research website.

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