Czar’s Got Heart: Dick Vitale Gala Tops Fundraising Goal

The 2010 Dick Vitale Gala was another successful effort on behalf of the Jimmy V Foundation to help raise money to fight and eventually beat cancer. There was an overwhelming show of support that reflects how highly people regard Dick Vitale as well as the respect everyone has for late Coach Jim Valvano who died of bone cancer in 1993, when the V Foundation was formed. There were a number of coaches and players who showed up and contributed including Magic Johnson, who introduced honoree Tom Izzo, and Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, who introduced Tony Dungy.

Country music star Kenny Chesney was also in attendance. Dick and his wife Lorraine are huge fans of Kenny and have attended a dozen of his concerts. They were back stage talking to Kenny after a recent show and Kenny told them he’d love to come to one of their events and they said they would love to have him and of course he was welcome to come down to Sarasota for the Gala. So Kenny showed up and sat at the table between Dick and Lorraine. During the auction Kenny got in on the action. Coach John Calapari had donated four courtside seats to next year’s Kentucky vs. Tennessee basketball game.  The bidding was going back and forth between Kenny and another gentleman. They had gotten to $38,000 and were waiting for someone to bid $40,000 when Dick jumped up, grabbed the mic and said, “Wait, Kenny Chesney just bid $38,000 for those tickets.” Then he pointed at the other guy and said, “And you’re bidding $38,000 for the tickets … John Calipari, you’ve got to find eight tickets because both of these guys are paying $38,000 to buy four tickets.”  Calipari was standing next to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl up on the stage and Cal replied, “That’s fine Dickie, you got it. I’m just going to take them out of Bruce’s allotment.” So Dick raised $76,000 that way.

Then Jonn said, “I’ve got a guy out in the audience who’s willing to match whatever we can raise here in the room, up to $100,00. Why don’t we do this, think about how much money we spend when we go out and take friends to dinner and order a couple bottles of good wine. A $500-$600 check is nothing. Why don’t we do this: I’m gonna start out with $1000.” Then he pointed to me at the table and said, “Mike Fratello, you’re in for $1000? I raised my hand and said, “I’m in for $1000.” To which John replied, “If we can find 98 more people in this room out of the 800+ people we have here we’ll have $100,000 and that man will match it. That means in ten minutes we can make $200,000.

It was a moving and inspiring evening, and by the end of the night we had all laughed and cried with Dick and the guests of honor. Thanks to the generosity off all the attendees Dick was able to raise over $1.2 Million for Pediatric Cancer Research. If you would like to make a donation, please call 1-800-4-JIMMYV or click here to visit the V Foundation website and donate online.

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