Commentary

Gala to raise money to fight cancer

Updated: May 17, 2011, 2:54 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

There is nothing that gets my adrenaline going more than raising dollars for cancer research.

No child should be sitting in a hospital going through chemotherapy or radiation. They should be out playing ball, having fun, living the life of a kid.

I recently spent time with several fathers who lost their children to the dreaded disease of cancer. I spoke to Patrick Wright, who lost his daughter, Payton, to cancer at the age of 5. I also met with Ivette and Anthony Littlejohn, who lost their little angel, Adrian, on May 1, at the age of 15 months.

Cancer reared its ugly head and created a nightmare for these families, and the pain doesn't go away. The hurt of losing the one you love is devastating.

[+] EnlargeLittlejohn
Littlejohn familyAdrian Littlejohn will be one of three children honored at the gala.

Our gala is a day that excites me and the people involved in the event. We will raise $1 million for the fight against this disease.

My family and friends have been very involved in the success of this event. My wife Lorraine, my daughters Sherri and Terri and their families, plus friends like Joe Barbetta and Mary Kenealy Barbetta, John Moran, Mike Valdes, Art Conforti, Howie Schwab, Josh Krulewitz and Jeff Kamis have made great efforts.

Then there is the V Foundation, including CEO Nick Valvano, Joyce Aschenbrenner and her team, including Sherrie Mazur, who works so hard with the media. This is a total team effort. Everyone has united to raise that $1 million for research.

This year's event will honor the memory of three youngsters who lost their lives way too early. We are not going to allow their passing go in vain, as we will remember them and let their memory live with grants to help other kids. Moffitt Hospital will get at least $500,000 in memory of Lucy Weber and Johnny Teis.

The Ohio State-Wisconsin game February 12 in Madison was also dedicated in Teis' honor, as Dave O'Brien and I wore a green wrist band in his honor. We were able to connect with him then, but sadly he lost his life in April.

No family should go through the agony that the Teis family went through.

I cannot thank the many celebrities enough for attending my event. Sarasota will be the sports capital of the world. I will not list them all, but it will be so special. Three Heisman Trophy winners (Desmond Howard, Vinny Testaverde and Chris Weinke) will attend. Stars from ESPN like Erin Andrews, Jon Gruden and Rece Davis, who will help emcee the event, will also be there. There are also stars from the movie and TV world who will attend, including Josh Hopkins from "Cougar Town" and Judy Landers from "BJ and the Bear."

Baseball will be well represented with Gary Sheffield, Tino Martinez, Tom Niedenfeur and Mark Guthrie there. Coaches who never forgot Jimmy V's mission will be a big part of the evening. Roy Williams and John Calipari will be honored at the ceremony. Nick Bollettieri. Frank Martin, Jay Wright, Jamie Dixon, Billy Donovan, Bob Huggins, Gary Williams, Josh Pastner, Jimbo Fisher and all four Final Four coaches will be there, too.

It will be a special night at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. It will capture the three attitudes that Jimmy V spoke about at his famous ESPY speech. He said you should be moved to laughter, moved to thought and moved to tears.

I guarantee you that when the sixth annual gala has concluded, all three of those emotions will be felt.

Thank you to all of those involved. I am already making plans for 2012 as we will honor Wright, Gary Williams and football Hall of Famer Lou Holtz. Make your plans early, my friends!

You can still help this year in our battle against cancer by calling 1-800-4-JIMMY V.

I know that Jimmy V will be smiling in heaven, knowing that we are all gathering on his behalf to keep the dream of beating cancer alive. His legacy will not be cutting down the nets and winning the championship in 1983; it will be the lives he has affected, for generation after generation, with the $100 million raised in this fight.

This is just another step to try to stamp out this dreaded disease.

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.