Celebrities from the world of sports and entertainment crowded the on Friday for the Seventh Annual Dick Vitale Gala to raise money in the fight against pediatric cancer through The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
The event was hosted by ESPN’s John Saunders and honored three sports icons: Villanova University men’s basketball coach Jay Wright, former University of Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams and college football coaching legend Lou Holtz.
An anonymous donor gave $500,000, Vitale told The Herald-Tribune:
"This guy, young guy, grabs me and he says, 'Hey, I want to make a donation.' I thought he said $5,000, so I say, 'OK, there's donor cards right here on the table.'
"Then the guy says, 'No, I don't think you understand — my child is battling a disease like this — a vicious disease. I want to donate $500,000.' "
The event raised at least more than $2.1 million for pediatric cancer research in Florida, according to event organizers.
The sold out event hosted more than 800 people and featured more than 70 celebrities. Attendees included two of the coaches represented in the 2012 NCAA Final Four in University of Kentucky’s John Calipari, and University of Louisville’s Rick Pitino.
Other NCAA men’s basketball coaches in attendance included Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Butler’s Brad Stevens, South Carolina’s Frank Martin, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton and Baylor’s Scott Drew. Attendees enjoyed an after party with live music from R&B group The Spinners.
“Dick is one of the most passionate supporters of The V Foundation and the work he has done for pediatric cancer research in the Florida community is truly inspiring,” said Nick Valvano, CEO of The V Foundation. “We are also so thankful for our honorees Jay, Gary and Lou as well as the other celebrities and guests who donated their time to help make this year’s Gala another success.”
Since the event’s inception in 2006, the Vitale Gala has raised more than $8 million for cancer research. This year, net proceeds of the event will benefit pediatric cancer research initiatives at in St. Petersburg, the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and Shands Cancer Center in Gainesville.
For more information about the Dick Vitale Gala, visit www.jimmyv.org/vitale.
This article updates the amount fundraised.