By Steven J. Smith
Dick Vitale is a family man, a big reason why he works so passionately for the V Foundation — it raises money for pediatric cancer research, helping find a way to improve the lives of children and families.
“Family is my number one priority in life, and there’s nothing greater than sharing every moment of your life with people who mean so much to you,” Vitale said. “I’m blessed that my two daughters, sons-in-law, and five grandkids live so close to me and Lorraine, my wife of 42 years. I came from a great family. My mom and dad were uneducated, but had a doctorate of love. They passed it on to my brother and sister and I, and there is nothing, I say nothing, that’s more important to me and my wife than our family.”
Affectionately known in basketball circles as Dickie V, Vitale is a famed basketball sportscaster who has coached at the college and NBA levels and is known for his catchphrase “Awesome, baby.” He proudly
says he has adopted the V Foundation for Cancer Research as his second family. It was formed in 1993 to honor his friend, college basketball coach Jim Valvano, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 47.
The V Foundation enjoys a notable presence in the scientific community, guided by an elite advisory board of top physicians and research scientists at well known universities and cancer centers from around the U.S. that recommend which research projects should receive funding. Vitale sits on the foundation’s board of directors and holds a gala every year to help keep the foundation funded.
“The Dick Vitale Gala has raised money for the V Foundation over the last seven years,” Vitale said. “In each of those years we raised a minimum of $1.3 million. Last year we raised $2.1 million. This year
we hope to match it. Since it started, my gala has raised in excess of $10 million.”
This year’s gala will get underway at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 17 at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota. Vitale expects 40-50 celebrities and coaches to come to the event. The gala will honor three college sports coaches: Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, University of Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun, and Bill Self, basketball coach at the University of Kansas.
“We’ll also have a post-gala show that will be magnificent, with Dennis Edwards and the Temptations,” Vitale said. “The bottom line is no child should be doing chemotherapy and radiation. They should be playing. They should be having fun. And we’re trying to do all we can to raise dollars to help kids battle that disease.”
He added that over $120 million has been raised so far for the V Foundation, $1 million of which was recently raised for a research grant in the name of the late Payton Wright, a young girl who lost her life to cancer. That money has helped save the life of a Sarasota boy named Kyle Peters.
“Kyle’s cancer-free now,” Vitale said. “There are more stories, about loads of kids we don’t know, that have been helped along the way. But the foundation needs dollars. They need money to do research. That’s my goal. I’m obsessed with it, and I will beg and I will plead with people to help us.”
Want to join Dickie V and his cause? Call 941-350-0580 or 941-374-6026. More information can be found at his website, www.DickVitaleOnline.com or the V Foundation’s website, www.jimmyv.org.