Dick Vitale didn’t know if he would reach this year’s goal of raising $5 million for pediatric cancer research due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It turns out he has met his goal and then some.
Vitale’s annual fundraising gala has already reached the $7 million mark going into Friday’s event, which will be virtual this year. The gala is usually held in May in Sarasota but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 crisis. It will be a combination of live and taped segments with Vitale hosting from his home in Florida and ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi at network headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
This is the 15th year for the Dick Vitale Gala, which is held in association with the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Vitale has raised nearly $30 million for pediatric cancer research
“I was down a little bit because we couldn’t get everyone together but then it made me work harder,” Vitale said. “There are a lot of people that have been successful who have responded despite what has happened.”
The gala usually draws 900 people. Vitale said organizers will try their best to replicate the in-person event, including the emotion of seeing kids describe their experiences with cancer.
“There is always such emotion and passion in the room. Hopefully it will happen with the virtual event,” he said.
Vitale lauded three special donors. It Works! founder and CEO Mark Pentecost has donated $2 million, World Wrestling Entertainment, $900,000, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $500,000.
The theme of this year’s event is “Passion 4 Pediatrics.” Coaches Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Mark Few (Gonzaga basketball) will be honored as well as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and Orlando Magic co-founder Pat Williams will receive the John Saunders Courage Award. Mitch Albom will be a special guest.
Two research grants will be awarded in honor of Chika Jeune and Will DeGregorio. Albom was a guardian of Jeune, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, when she was 5 years old.
By JOE REEDY AP Sports Writer