Czar’s Got Heart: 2011 Jimmy V New Jersey Dinner

A couple weeks ago I attended the inaugural Jimmy V New Jersey Dinner at The Brownstone in Paterson, New Jersey. Hosted by ESPN’s Bob Ley, we paid tribute to North Jersey native Dick Vitale – a longtime champion of Jim Valvano’s quest to eradicate cancer. Almost 400 people participated in the fundraiser, including special guest Notre Dame Basketball Coach Mike Brey.

Towards the end of the dinner Dick got up to talk about why he’s been so relentless in his pursuit of a cure for cancer. As always Dick delivered an impassioned and moving speech, explaining that he made a promise to his close friend Jimmy Valvano to continue to fight for cancer research after Jimmy’s death.

This was a great opportunity to honor an exceptional person who has dedicated an incredible amount of time, effort and work to help raise money throughout the country for The V Foundation for Cancer Research. It was a terrific evening, and I enjoyed seeing a lot of old friends and familiar faces from the North Jersey area among those who helped researchers get one step closer to finding a cure by coming out to support Dick and the V Foundation. Hopefully next year’s dinner will be even bigger and better.

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Photos courtesy of Richard Formica via The V Foundation for Cancer Research

Please CLICK HERE if you would like to make an online donation. The V Foundation awards 100% of all donations directly to cancer research and related programs and has awarded nearly $80 million to more than 100 facilities nationwide.

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.