I'm still on cloud nine, baby!
Friday night at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, I was thrilled to be part of a special event. The Dick Vitale gala to raise money for the V Foundation in the fight against cancer was really a special, special evening. We honored Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who really wowed the crowd of close to 650 people, who paid $1,000 a piece to attend. Also honored was a local superstar, Eileen Curd, who has raised thousands and thousands of dollars for the fight against cancer.
There was so much emotion and passion in that room. There were several cancer survivors in attendance, and others fighting the disease. There was so much courage there.
Everywhere you looked, their were star coaches from the world of sports. I can't thank those guys enough as they paid their own way to attend, transportation, hotel, etc. In attendance were Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Rick Pitino of Louisville, Bill Self of Kansas, John Calipari of Memphis, Gary Williams of Maryland, Tom Crean of Marquette, Kelvin Sampson of Indiana, Mike Brey of Notre Dame, Stan Heath of South Florida, Fred Hill of Rutgers, Derreck Whittenberg of Fordham, Florida assisant coach Larry Shyatt, and ESPN's own Fran Fraschilla. The NBA was well represented by Chuck Daly, Mike Fratello, Brian Hill, Terry Stotts and referee Bob Delaney.
|Coach K and Vitale at the dais.|
Others from the world of sports in attendance included Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella, a Stanley Cup champion, Lightning president Ron Campbell, tennis guru Nick Bolletieri, Jon LeCrone (Horizon League commissioner), and former NBA stars Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie and Ed Pinckney.
At the end of the night, I told Coach K I needed four tickets for the North Carolina-Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. I offered airfare on a private plane to the contest, and said I will not take less than $25,000 for the V Foundation for the package. Well, Jim Frauenberg of Columbus, Ohio stepped up to the plate and donated $100,000 for the tickets and airfare.
Then I turned to Rick Pitino and asked for a similar package, tickets to the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry. Chris Sullivan of Outback Steakhouse matched that with a $100,000 bid. WOW!
In five minutes we raised $200,000!
For the evening, we were able to announce a $1 million grant in the name of Harry Rhoads, the head of the Washington Speakers bureau in the fight against melanoma. Harry is courageously battling that disease.
I cannot thank everyone enough from the bottom of my heart. So many people came through, including Tim Seifert and his people from The Hartford, the main sponsor, Merrill-Lynch private banking, Hooters, General Motors ... amazing!
So many people behind the scenes were so important in the success of the evening. Mary Kenealy-Barbetta helped put the event together, working with the Ritz-Carlton. Joyce Aschenbrenner of the V Foundation poured her heart and soul into it. I cannot thank my wife Lorraine and my family enough.
It was a night I will never forget.
Then at a post-party the next evening, others came through. Jerry Healy, who owns 14 McDonald's in the state of Kentucky, donated $50,000, as did David Grain. Crean and Self joined the President's Club with $50,000 commitments. It was absolutely incredible.
There is still so much to be done in the fight against Cancer. Let me tell you, were are staging a battle that we are winning, my friends. The number of cancer-related deaths declined in the United States last year and that is a positive. The research is making a big difference. If you would like to join us, feel free to call 1-800-4-JIMMY-V. The life you can help save may be that of someone you know and love.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.