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12th Annual Dick Vitale Gala Sets Fundraising Record Raising More than $3 Million for Pediatric Cancer Research

The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a top-rated cancer research charity, and ESPN Hall of Fame Sportscaster Dick Vitale are pleased to announce the 12th Annual Dick Vitale Gala raised a record-breaking $3.12 million for pediatric cancer research.  Held on May 12, in Sarasota, Florida, the Gala hosted more than 800 supporters and celebrities to further groundbreaking advancements in childhood cancer research while celebrating this year’s Gala honorees, the life of the late John Saunders and a courageous team of pediatric cancer fighters and survivors in attendance.  With the addition of this year’s funds, the Dick Vitale Gala has raised more than $21 million to help defeat the leading cause of death by disease in American children.

“I can’t thank everyone enough. It is unbelievable to think about raising over $3 million and exceeding our goal. I remember when we started; we just wanted to create a little awareness for the V Foundation in the Florida area. And today, look how everyone has responded. I can just simply say thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Vitale.  “We have raised over $21 million since the Gala’s inception.  Our goal next year will be to raise $3.5 million, and I know the people will not let us down because it is for such a worthy cause: helping kids battle cancer.”

This year’s sold-out event honored ESPN Hall of Fame Sportscaster Chris Berman, West Virginia University Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bob Huggins and University of Notre Dame Head Football Coach Brian Kelly.  Huggins and Kelly addressed the crowd, sharing more about their passions and personal connections to cancer.  George Bodenheimer, retired ESPN president and executive chairman, spoke on behalf of Berman and announced his donation of $130,000 to support the V Foundation’s efforts to declare victory over cancer.  Of his donation, $30,000 represented the 30 years Berman worked alongside Saunders, a founding member of the V Foundation’s Board of Directors and 10-time emcee of the Dick Vitale Gala.

Vitale continues to recruit celebrities in the fight against cancer, drawing nearly 100 stars to Sarasota for the event this year.  Notable NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball coaches in attendance included Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Johnny Dawkins (Central Florida), Joe Dooley (Florida Gulf Coast), Brian Gregory (South Florida), Leonard Hamilton (Florida State), Kevin Keatts (NC State), Jim Larrañaga (Miami), Frank Martin (South Carolina), Josh Pastner(Georgia Tech), Bill Self (Kansas) and Tom Crean.  Ohio State’s Head Football Coach Urban Meyer was in attendance, as was South Florida’s Head Football Coach Charlie Strong.  Many current and former players, coaches and personalities in the National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League also were in attendance, including Mike Fratello, Skal Labissière, Tom Niedenfuer, Brady Quinn and Jerod Ward.  ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi emceed the Gala and was one of many personalities and executives from ESPN at the event.  WWE’s Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon was also in attendance; the WWE and V Foundation support pediatric cancer research at cancer institutes nationwide through funds raised by Connor’s Cure.  Reverend Barry & Funktastic Soul provided live entertainment throughout the evening.

“Dick has done it again! He brought a passionate group together to support pediatric cancer research, and it was a record-breaking fundraising year.  The evening was filled with laughter, thought and tears – just as Jim Valvano would have wanted,” said Susan Braun, CEO of the V Foundation.  “Every year, Dick creates tremendous momentum with his Gala, and we carry that enthusiasm with us throughout the year as we raise money to stop children’s cancers. Thank you to Dick and Lorraine, the honorees and all those who help make our grant funding possible.”

During the Gala, Vitale and the V Foundation announced that this year’s event will fund two special grants: a $600,000 John Saunders Memorial Pediatric Cancer Research Grant and a $200,000 Benjamin Gilkey Pediatric Cancer Research Grant.  As colleagues at ESPN, Vitale and Saunders became close with Jim Valvano and have helped sustain the legendary NC State University basketball coach’s legacy by supporting the V Foundation.  The John Saunders Grant was first announced following his passing in August 2016.  Benjamin Gilkey was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and a rare genetic predisposition on New Year’s Eve in 2014.  Despite all efforts and a valiant fight, Gilkey, just 9 years old, relapsed in September 2016 and passed in February 2017.  Gilkey’s parents, Laura and Michael, and brother Banyan were recognized during the evening.  Remaining funds raised at the Gala will be awarded to the best pediatric cancer research projects to be announced later this year.

The 2018 Dick Vitale Gala will honor ESPN Sportscaster Mike Greenberg, University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State University’s Head Men’s Basketball Coach Leonard Hamilton.  For more information about the Dick Vitale Gala, please visit www.jimmyv.org/vitale.