Thank you, thank you, thank you!
That is all I can say to the pro athletes and college coaches who paid their own way to attend the Dickie V. Gala in Sarasota, Fla. I can't thank them enough for making the gala, to raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation, a rousing success. We exceeded our goal of $1 million, presenting grants to All Children's Hospital and Moffitt's Hospital.
Jimmy V's dream was to beat this dreaded disease and we are moving in the right direction. There were so many celebrities dedicated to this cause, making Sarasota the sport's capital of the world.
Think about this list: first off, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan were the honorees and they were fantastic. Then you fire off the list of others from the world of sports and all I can say is WOW, they were so special. Tom Abatemarco, Mike Alstott, Erin Andrews, Jimmy Arias, Paul Azinger, Richard Bisaccia, Nick Bollettieri, Mike Brey. John Calipari, Earl Clark, Mick Cronin, Steve MeMeo, Jamie Dixon, Jerry Dunn, Marc Edwards, Travis Ford, Fran Fraschilla, Smokey Gaines, Anthony Grant, Frank Haith, Tom Izzo, Mannie Jackson, Stu Jackson, Trent Johnson, Steve Kragthorpe, Billy Lange, Bob Lanier, Rob Lanier, Vinny Lecavalier, Tom Longo, Ray McCallum, Urban Meyer, Raheem Morris, Tom Penders, Digger Phelps, Ed Pinckney, Rich Pitino, Rumeal Robinson, Barry Rohrssen, Tree Rollins, John Saunders, Howie Schwab, Herb Sendek, Larry Shyatt, Charlie Strong, Reggie Theus, Rick Tocchet, Jeff Torborg, Bob Valvano, Ralph Willard, Doug Williams, Jay Wright ...
What an incredible evening, all together to support the fight against cancer.
They made it happen and these superstars were so good spending time with the people that packed the Ritz-Carlton.
There were so many other courageous people in attendance. Mark Kelly, who I first met in 1992 at the Final Four as part of a Make-a-Wish program. Mark, Jimmy V and I had a blast at that Final Four, and Mark has battled cancer and several other diseases in recent years. My friends, he is a champion in the game of life.
There were Holly and Patrick Wright, who have bravely fought on trying to raise awareness of pediatric cancer as their daughter Peyton tragically passed away so early in her life. They are beautiful people.
Tim Berg, a young tennis player who could end up at Dartmouth; he has battled cancer and done so much to support the cause.
Anthony Negron was there. He has had several transplants to battle a form of leukemia. His brother, Jonathan, also is a carrier of the gene that has not been activated.
The Nicholls family was there to tell their story. They lost a daughter, Caitlin, to cancer. A second daughter, Erica, has been battling cancer and she is going for a final round of therapy. It was an emotional moment as they talked about their situation.
I cannot thank people like Joyce Aschenbrenner enough. She is a cancer survivor who works for the V Foundation and is so dedicated to this event and the battle against cancer. Nick Valvano, the CEO of the V Foundation and his staff do incredible work. Saunders did an amazing job as the host and MC of the evening. John and Jimmy had such a strong relationship.
I cannot thank Mary Kenealy-Barbetta enough for her work putting the evening together. Mary is the best party planner in the world! She organized everything.
Pitino and Donovan dazzled the crowd with their stories about their relationships and how cancer affected their lives. Jay Wright, Tom Izzo and Urban Meyer also spoke. Meyer and Donovan have combined to win four national championships in recent years and their presence was special.
I cannot thank all of the beautiful fans in attendance. At $1000 per person, in this economy, they came through to support the event.
John Calipari and Pitino came through to donate tickets for an auction. The game ... their first meeting as coaches at Kentucky and Louisville. That raised $50,000.
People from advisors excel and the Laborers Union made special donations, as did Mannie Jackson and Hooters.
It was an incredible night that I will always treasure. Thank you to my entire family for their support and the work they put in.
Hopefully we can help people in need in the battle against the dreaded disease.
Finally, we announced next year's honorees at the Dickie V. gala. Get your tickets early as on May 21, 2010 we will honor Tony Dungy, Tom Izzo and Charles Barkley.
I know Jimmy V is smiling, looking down from heaven.