Gala grows from small beginnings

It all started with a phone call from Nick Valvano, the CEO of the V Foundation and brother of the late, great Jim Valvano.

When Nick called and said he wanted to give more awareness to cancer research down in my area in Florida, he proposed a small gathering at my house.

The suggestion was 30-40 for that evening. Instead, the first gala had 300 in attendance and raised over $300,000. There were many stars there that night, people like Billy Donovan and Ronde Barber, and it was a great time raising money for a great cause.

My friends, it was simply not big enough.

All of a sudden, the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota became the home of a special event, with over 800 people in attendance, raising over $1 million for cancer research.

Jimmy V passed away 20 years ago, but the legacy he created to battle cancer will never be forgotten. That became his goal, to beat the dreaded disease. Jimmy said he needed his friends to gather and fight, and that is exactly what they have done.

All I kept hearing as we raised the level of the event, the Dickie V gala, was that we can't. I learned a long time ago from my mother, god rest her soul, that the word "cannot" is not in my vocabulary.

Thanks to so many great people, we have reached many lofty goals. Now we will reach the $10 million mark for total dollars raised at the various Dickie V galas. Year after year, people have shown so much heart, they have done so much to help us in our effort.

My mother said that is you are good to people, they will be good to you. They have been great to me and this important cause.

I have been blessed in my life. I am going into my 12th Hall of Fame in June, the National Sportscasters Hall of Fame. It is something I will cherish and honor with great pride. However, there is nothing that gives me a greater feeling than bringing a smile to the face of a child.

It is so important to win this battle against cancer. We have made some great strides over the years. There is still a lot of work to be done.

It is so special when you look at the winners, the cancer survivors. I met recent with the father of a youngster who thanked me for raising money that helped get their child out of the hospital. I cannot tell you how much that comment meant to me.

I am obsessed with this fight. I will beg and plead until my dying day. The money raised could help a member of your family. Cancer strikes all, black and white, Christian and Jewish, etc.

I have selfish reasons to be actively involved. I have five grandchildren, ages 7-11, and I want to make certain that if, god forbid, the day ever comes that any of them are in any trouble, that there is enough research out there to help.

Well, it should be an incredible party, sold out for over a month with over 800 paying $1000 a pop. Plus we will have around 80 sports celebrities, the likes of John Calipari, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, Tom Crean, Mike Brey, Jay Wright, Jim Larranaga and the list goes on. People like Heisman winner Chris Weinke, Gary Sheffield, Warrick Dunn, Jimbo Fisher, Nick Bollettieri, Bucs running back Doug Martin and on and on.

The honorees for the evening are Bill Self, Jim Calhoun and Bobby Bowden.

That little phone call by Nick Valvano will lead to a success story to the tune of $10 million and counting for cancer research. That is so, so important.

Thanks to everyone on my team for putting together a first-class event. Mary Kenealy, Janet Allen, Elise Kashmiry, my wife and family, so many have helped. I cannot express to you the extraordinary planning and organization to make this happen.

It is a team, just like in sports. It is the people behind me that get the job done.

I also want to thank the media, which does such a great job publicizing the cause and the event I cannot recruit the dollars from corporate groups across America without the press clippings and coverage.

It is going to be a special, special evening. If you want to help, please call 1-800-4-JIMMY-V.