More than $7 million expected to be raised at 17th Annual Dick Vitale Gala

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Dick Vitale, a Lakewood Ranch resident and ESPN college basketball analyst, expects to raise more than $7 million at the 17th Annual Dick Vitale Gala, held at The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota on Friday, May 6. The event has sold out, with 900 expected to attend.
Dick Vitale, a Lakewood Ranch resident and ESPN college basketball analyst, expects to raise more than $7 million at the 17th Annual Dick Vitale Gala, held at The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota on Friday, May 6. The event has sold out, with 900 expected to attend.

SARASOTA — For the first 16 of his Dick Vitale galas, the Lakewood Ranch resident and ESPN college basketball analyst could be sympathetic toward the young boys and girls stricken with cancer, each a member of the 82-year-old’s All Courageous Team.

But for the 17th Annual Dick Vitale Gala, set for Friday, May 6, at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Vitale’s own battles with cancer the past seven months will generate the requisite amount of empathy.

“I’ll be very honest with you,” he said recently. “Seven months have been brutal. It has not been fun.”

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In addition to having been treated for melanoma and lymphoma, Vitale underwent vocal cord surgery for dysplasia. Even after following his doctor’s orders to remain silent for several weeks, Vitale said his voice is only at 70%. “It really frustrated me,” he said of the voice rest. “I felt trapped.”

But still needing to raise money for pediatric cancer research through the V Foundation for Cancer Research, Vitale was forced to text his pleas for money.

Perhaps heartened by Vitale’s success in fighting the two cancers, donors came through in a big way. With a goal of $7 million set before the Gala, more than $7 million is eventually expected to be raised, bringing the total raised over 17 galas to $50 million. And the event has sold out, with 900 expected to attend.

This year’s Gala will honor former Tampa Bay Buc wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson; Scott Drew, the basketball coach of the 2021 national champion Baylor Bears; and tennis legend Chris Evert, who is more than halfway done with chemotherapy to treat her stage 1 ovarian cancer. Also, Rod Gilmore, the former Stanford football standout and current ESPN football analyst, will receive the John Saunders Award for Courage. Gilmore has battled multiple myeloma.

tennis legend Chris Evert, who is more than halfway done with chemotherapy to treat her stage 1 ovarian cancer, will be among the honorees at Friday's 17th Anuual Dick Vitale Gala.
tennis legend Chris Evert, who is more than halfway done with chemotherapy to treat her stage 1 ovarian cancer, will be among the honorees at Friday's 17th Anuual Dick Vitale Gala.

In reaching his $7 million goal, Vitale was given a huge boost from Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and wife Holly, who earlier this month donated $500,000 to the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The money will be directed to the Dick Vitale Fund for Pediatric Cancer.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of Tom Gores,” Vitale said in a statement. “It is time that the pediatric oncologists get the funding needed to develop new medicines and treatments to help children win this battle.”

A highlight of the night will be the presentation of a $200,000 research grant in memory of Colby Young, son of former San Francisco 49er Bryant Young and his wife, Kristin. Colby Young died at age 15 from brain cancer.

Besides the night’s honorees, the Gala will attract other sporting names. Also scheduled to attend are Jay Wright, Mike Brey, Rick Pitino, Todd Golden, Rick Barnes, Todd Bowles, Monte Kiffin, David Baas, Mel Tucker, Martin Gramatica, Lindsey Davenport, Mary Pierce, Lesley Visser, Mike Fratello, Nick Bolletieri, Bob Delaney, and ESPN's Chris Fowler, Jay Bilas, Booger McFarland, and Bob Wischusen.

ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi will emcee the event. Donations are still welcome. Visit v.org/pediatrics, or dickvitale.com.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: More than $7 million expected to be raised at 17th Annual Dick Vitale Gala