SARASOTA, Fla. — Bringing people together for The V Foundation cause is what the Dick Vitale Gala — held Friday here at the Ritz Carlton — is all about.
Among those united were the event’s namesake and his former ESPN colleague turned ABC Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, one of the evening’s three honorees (along with Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and former Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan).
Roberts and Vitale (see video above) were teammates at ESPN for 15 years, often working together on the same SportsCenter set. In 1993, Vitale helped introduce Jim Valvano at the first ESPY Awards just prior to the now-famous “Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up” speech, while Roberts immediately followed Valvano on stage.
Both V Foundation Board members, they share a deep passion for the cancer fight as evidenced by their tireless work. Roberts has touched millions by sharing her personal cancer battle in a very public and personal way, while Vitale is now in his 11th year hosting this special event along with his wife Lorraine.
“From the day I met you, you have been exactly the same,” Roberts emphatically told Vitale during a pre-event conversation after Roberts signed hundreds of basketballs and footballs to raise additional funds. “Your passion, your compassion has never changed one iota.”
Vitale eclipsed his goal for the Gala by raising more than $2.8 million and its focus remains on pediatric cancer. His invited guests included several families with children who are cancer survivors, many of whom were called on stage for a standing ovation.
“I call them my all-courageous team,” Vitale said of the children. “One of the youngsters. . .This is unbelievable – 1200 doses of chemo, radiation, surgery and today he is cancer free. The dollars work!”
The full ballroom packed with supporters and celebrities included Vitale’s ESPN colleagues Chris Fowler, Dan Shulman, Jon Gruden and emcee John Saunders.
Another poignant moment came when V Foundation CEO Susan Braun presented $200,000 grants in the memory of two courageous children who lost their cancer fight: Sarasota-area teen Julia Mounts and Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
Roberts and Vitale weren’t the only notable pair supporting the cause. Fierce Big Ten football rivals Meyer of Ohio State and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh joined together on stage to assist with the evening’s raffle. This Gala truly connects people.
Video produced by Josh Krulewitz and Samantha Baron
— Robin Roberts (@RobinRoberts) May 14, 2016
— The V Foundation (@TheVFoundation) May 13, 2016
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) May 15, 2016
— Shannon Spake (@ShannonSpake) May 14, 2016