SARASOTA - Battling cancer is a fight that even the strongest find challenging. But it’s most devastating when it affects the smallest and most vulnerable of us.
The annual Dick Vitale gala benefiting the V Foundation at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota is one of our community's go-to events. More than 800 celebrities, local movers and shakers come together to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. But it didn’t start off that way.
Nick Valvano, President Emeritus of the V Foundation asked Dick Vitale’s wife Lorraine if she could host a dinner for 20 to 30 people to raise money for pediatric cancer eight years ago. Dickie V overheard, and this is what he said. “So he said, ‘twenty or thirty people? No, we can’t do twenty or thirty people, Lorraine. How many people did we have last week?’ She said two hundred. He said ‘I can do a party for two hundred and fifty’.”
Valvano says they raised more than $300,000, but Dick Vitale was disappointed and set forth on a mission to get more people and dollars for children with cancer. "Pediatric cancer is probably one of the most emotionally wrenching incidences that you see. A young child that's just starting their life, maybe being diagnosed with the disease that we associate with an adult, it affects the whole family."
Valvano and his brother, now deceased, made a decision to help children with cancer after visiting a camp for kids affected by the disease. "This was long before Jim was diagnosed. When we’re leaving the facility, he said to me ‘this is the saddest thing I've ever seen. We need to do something to fight this disease’.”
Valvano says the passion for finding a cure for pediatric cancer is part of his family and the V Foundation’s DNA.
"What we’re doing is we’re raising money to fund cancer research. What that research really does is it gives the parents hope that the doctors are going to find something that's going to be better for their child."
He says it’s great that we have fun, but it’s the message of hope that helps these families most.
100% of the money raised from the gala goes to pediatric cancer research. As a matter of fact, a large portion of the funds will stay right here in Florida and will fund grants at Moffitt Cancer Center and All Children's Hospital.
Jim Valvano was a renowned basketball coach and award-winning commentator at ABC and ESPN who died of cancer in his mid-40s. The research funded from the gala benefits not only kids here but kids everywhere.
The V Foundation is a 501c 3 non-for-profit. To find out more, go to http://www.jimmyv.org/events/dick-vitale-gala/