Commentary

Remembering children lost to cancer

Updated: May 3, 2011, 12:42 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

The Littlejohn FamilyCourtesy of the Littlejohn FamilyThe Dickie V gala will be dedicated in part to Adrian Littlejohn, who passed away on May 1.

It is so heartbreaking to hear the pain in the voice of parents who have lost children to cancer.

I had the opportunity recently to speak to Rob Teis, who lost his 8-year-old son Johnny on April 21. He was such an inspiration during his courageous fight against cancer.

I learned about Johnny because he was a big basketball fan. Sadly he succumbed in his battle, leaving at such a young age. When I spoke to Rob recently, the pain in his voice was evident.

That is a key reason that we must beat this dreaded disease. We must all unite together and raise the dollars for research to win the battle. That is my goal, to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

[+] EnlargeLucy Weber
Courtesy of the Weber FamilyLucy Weber will be one of three remembered at the gala.

I also had the chance to speak with Brian Weber, whose daughter Lucy passed away at 17 months old last November. He, too, has gone through so much pain.

The reason that I spoke to them was to inform them that grants will be given on their behalf at my gala on May 20. The CEO of the V Foundation, Nick Valvano, was proud to inform me of the approval of those grants.

A third child, Adrian Littlejohn, tragically passed away at age 2 on May 1. Ivette and Anthony Littlejohn, the parents of Adrian, will be in attendance at the gala, along with the parents of the other two children.The gala will be dedicated to the memory of those three children.

We will be giving $500,000 in research grants in honor of Johnny Teis and Lucy Weber to Moffitt Hospital in Tampa. We will be giving $250,000 in research grants to All-Children's Hospital, where Adrian was a patient.

Jimmy V would be smiling, looking down from heaven knowing we are fighting to win this war. His legacy is not cutting down the nets in 1983, but all the lives affected, generation after generation, and the research being done through the V Foundation.

They are real winners, trying to do all they can.

Kids shouldn't have to go through chemotherapy. They should be outside playing ball and having fun.

Hopefully the dollars raised will make a difference in future lives.

We must beat this disease. There is nothing worse than having a parent suffer while watching their kids struggle.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.