Dick Vitale gala raises $6.5 million for pediatric cancer research

More than 44 years after coaching his last basketball game in college, Dick Vitale has won a national title.

Or at least his version of it.

The Hall of Fame university hoops broadcaster and tireless crusader for the plight of children fighting cancer, announced that its 16th annual gala raised $ 6.5 million for pediatric cancer research. The amount eclipsed his stated goal of $ 5 million, which he said would represent his “national championship” if raised.

“I am amazed at all the people who have responded in such a positive way to help us raise $ 6.5 million for children fighting cancer,” Vitale said in a text message on Sunday.

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At a press conference ahead of the gala, held Friday night at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, Vitale wept as he expressed regret for asking for donations in the midst of a global pandemic.

Bruce Arians and Dan Mullen were just a few of the big names attending the annual @ DickieV gala to help @TheVFoundation raise money for pediatric cancer research. @Rachelwest__ has more of what is always an emotional night.

Full video ➡️ https://t.co/DprMR4ydXy pic.twitter.com/tGi2sRXntu

– Sports by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Sports) May 8, 2021

Friday’s gala, with a limited seating capacity (about 500 guests) due to COVID-19 precautions, attracted celebrities like Bucs coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht, former Gators quarterback (and Buc’s second round draft pick) Kyle Trask, tennis coaching icon Nick Bollettieri, WWE superstar (and local philanthropist) Titus O’Neil and USF athletic director Michael Kelly.

Gators soccer coach Dan Mullen, Auburn men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, former Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw and ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt were the honorees of the evening. A number of childhood cancer survivors and their families were also recognized as Vitale’s special guests.

Items scheduled for a silent auction included a signed Tom Brady Bucs jersey, a 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team autographed jersey, and a 49ers helmet signed by franchise legends Joe Montana and Dwight Clark.

“It’s a great night,” said Arians. “These kids play the Super Bowl every day to save their lives, and it’s great to help them.”

Since its inception in 2006, the gala has raised more than $ 35 million for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, according to the V Foundation website. The 17th gala will take place on May 6, 2022.

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