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Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Updated: May 20, 11:29 AM ET
Dickie V Gala: A very special night

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

Tony Dungy, Tom Izzo
Tony Dungy and Tom Izzo are two incredibly deserving honorees.

I am so excited about my upcoming Dickie V gala in Sarasota. Why? It is so vital for people in the world of sports to utilize our celebrity status to help raise funds to help stamp out the dreaded disease of cancer.

It is so important to help others, to help the people who have been stricken and those who have had to watch loved ones battle on. I think about people losing their children, like Patrick and Holly Wright, whose daughter Payton is no longer with us. I also reflect on the Negron family whose son, Anthony, tragically passed away.

I have been blessed to have a team of all-stars working so diligently in this cause. Believe me, it is very difficult to raise $1 million on an annual basis. It cannot be done by one or two people. It takes a team of champions to get the job done.

And it starts with the V Foundation. Their staff has been so helpful. Joyce Aschenbrenner does an amazing job coordinating the event, making sure things go off without a hitch. She also puts together a yearbook which is really first-class in every way.

Where would I be without the direction and guidance of Mary Kenealy-Barbetta? She is the master at putting together an amazing event. When people arrive at the gala, they are amazed at what they see, the layout and all the work that is done.

Then there are the volunteers, who work so hard to make this a special evening for everyone attending. It all starts with leadership at the V Foundation. Nick Valvano has dedicated himself to his brother's dream of finding a cure for cancer.

I have been blessed to have a wonderful family, one that works so hard behind the scenes. My wife Lorraine, my daughters Sherri and Terri, and son-in-laws Thomas Krug and Dr. Chris Sforzo, have shown tremendous energy and spent so much time to help make this event what it is.

My buddies Joe Barbetta, John Moran, Art Conforti, Mike Valdez, and Bob and Beverly Neville have also worked hard to make this evening magical.

There have been so many writers out there, contributing publicity so that we spread the word and get people to come to this event. Without that PR, we would not be able to attract the kind of interest we have garnered over the years. Josh Krulewitz leads the PR team that makes all the contacts with the media.

I also want to thank Rosa Gatti, Dan Steir, Keri Willis, Howie Schwab and other members of the ESPN team. They all help so much.

I have a bunch of Hall of Famers working to beat cancer!
Magic Johnson
Earvin "Magic" Johnson presented an award at the annual Dickie V gala.

Then there are the star of stars, our two honorees this year -- Tom Izzo and Tony Dungy. Can you find two better humanitarians in the world of sports? Not only are they winners, they contribute in so many ways to help others.

I feel the true side of greatness is the ability to affect people for generation after generation. That is what Jimmy V's legacy is all about. He had a great sporting moment, cutting the nets down at the 1983 Final Four. That brought joy to many people, especially those in Wolfpack country.

What he has done with the V Foundation is beyond belief. It has raised over $90 million. We are proud the gala helps in its little way, promoting awareness and raising some needed cash to help in research grants.

This year, we have dedicated our event on pediatric cancer and we have a realistic goal of raising that million!

I cannot thank enough the coaches and celebrities that come out and pay their own expenses. Their services are their donation to the V Foundation. What an incredible list of stars scheduled to attend: Sarasota is the sports capital of the world on Friday night!

From the NFL world, the likes of Steve Mariucci, Jim Caldwell, Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks, Doug Williams, Cullen Jenkins, Marc Edwards, Chris Weinke, James Harris, Pete Mitchell, Stephen Boyd, Lesley Visser, Fabian Washington and on and on.

New South Florida coach Skip Holtz and Boston College linebacker Marc Herzlich, himself a cancer survivor, headline those from the world of college football.

Then you have so many stars of the college basketball coaching profession: Roy Williams, John Calipari, Gary Williams, Bob Huggins, Brad Stevens, Bruce Pearl, Jay Wright, Ben Howland, Steve Alford, Gene Keady, Mike Brey, Seth Greenberg, Oliver Purnell, Brian Gregory, Tom Crean, Herb Sendek, Frank Martin, Isiah Thomas, Ray McCallum, Steve Lavin, and Lefty Driesell.

The NBA is well represented too, with Mike Fratello, Vern Fleming, Bob Delaney and, of course, Magic Johnson. The Magic Man is one of the greatest to lace 'em up and he was so receptive when presented the idea of introducing Izzo.

Talking about the world of tennis, it doesn't get better than Nick Bollettieri, who has groomed champion after champion.

The world of television is also well-represented. Mike Greenberg will be doing his show at the Ritz-Carlton on Friday. John Saunders, Brad Nessler, Fran Fraschilla ... wow!

Jake Olson, who has lost both eyes to cancer, will be in attendance. He's a huge USC football fan and became America's darling as his story was told.

Mark Kelly, a former ESPN employee who I first met as a youngster through the Make-a-Wish foundation, will also be in attendance. In 1992, Jimmy V and I spent a lot of time with him at the Final Four. He has beaten cancer, but he has struggled following all of the treatments. He will be at the gala.

I can go on and on. I am so proud of everyone involved.

So many people are fighting this disease. I am obessed because I have five young grandchildren and I cannot imagine the pain and suffering that others have gone through.

It is going to be a special night. It is so incredible. This is all about the hopes and dreams of so many. There are over 12 million cancer survivors in America, thanks in part to the dollars raised by an event like this.

Even if you cannot attend, you can help others. Make a donation to the V Foundation by calling 1-800-4-JIMMY-V. The life you could help save may be that of a friend or family member. Cancer doesn't care if you are black or white, Catholic or Jewish: It affects so many people and we have to beat it.