Even at a very young age, I loved to watch and play basketball. I was an active kid like most kids. But, I was also tall and skinny. So was my whole family. And mom was a basketball fanatic. Basketball is culture: the rivalries, the competition, the endless practices, coaching, schemes and plays. The smell of a gym, the squeak of basketball shoe on the wood floor: Basketball is a sport which to me has always portrayed the true concept of the word “team”.
I remember back in 1983 watching the NC State’s amazing, almost fairytale-like run to the NCAA title. Who could forget their coach, Jimmy Valvano, jumping up and down, running around like a kid—the same kid that I was when my team won a big game.
Then, in 1993, I had the opportunity to catch a portion of the ESPN sports awards on TV. What a concept—presenting awards to the finest athletes and coaches the world has ever seen. Being a sports fan, it was the ultimate show. An evening that was mostly fun and excitement turned somber. The wild, gregarious coach who 10 years before was running around the basketball court like kid, announced he was now stricken with cancer. And who could forget the speech — the speech that to this day, after seeing it dozens of times before, still brings tears to my eyes.
In 1999, I was invited out to dinner with my best friends, Andrew and Julie Constantin. I have known Andrew since the second grade and we remained extremely close friends ever since. I had come to know his wife Julie soon after she and Andrew moved to the west coast. I quickly realized that Andrew had married someone very special. The extraordinary bond between the two was evident from the very beginning. After a long dinner on a Saturday night, complimented, as always, by laughter, things became suddenly serious. Julie explained the story on how they came up with the idea of putting together a local fundraiser to benefit Jimmy Valvano’s cancer foundation. They were thinking about a wine auction, up in the Napa Valley somewhere and they asked if I could help. Without much thought I agreed to volunteer in any way I could. I knew it was an important endeavor to them, even though it seemed to me to be small minnow in a huge lake filled with fundraising groupers. Growing up in the area, it seemed like an event was being held every other weekend to raise money for one of many causes. It was on Sunday morning early when the acceptance of being a volunteer hit me. The phone rang and Julie, ever energetic, began to run down what we needed to start working on in order to pull off this event. After a few questions, I had come to the realization that…I was their first volunteer.
There were just the three of us—no one else. It was then when I surmised that this little fish wasn’t so little.
Fast forward to months later (after endless meetings and discussions), the day before the big event. Andrew, Julie and I were standing in the silent auction room with boxes and cases of wine strewn across the floor worth tens of thousands of dollars. It is noon, we were hungry and none of the volunteers scheduled to show up, did. We had never done anything like this before. It was then that we realized that there was no turning back.
We rallied together that day and the rest is history. I think Andrew and Julie gave me a title along the way, something along the lines of Auction Manager. But that didn’t mean a thing. It was the idea, the preparation and the follow through which ultimately led to success. It’s being a part of an event that since its inception has raised millions of dollars for the Jimmy V Cancer Foundation. The event makes me think about the kid, the coach, the tough choices we have, the life we all want to live.
Since being associated with the V Foundation Wine Celebration, I’ve realized that what makes The V Foundation special is commitment. From Jimmy V’s “Don’t Give Up. . .Don’t Ever Give Up!”® speech, to the Board of Directors, to the volunteer level – the commitment that I’ve seen to succeed in being a part (or a leader) of a cure for cancer has been almost overwhelming. And, commitment ties into many things, like: belief, honor, hard work and resolve, to name a few.
Through the Wine Celebration, I have learned that a few people, with hard work and preparation, can make a huge difference. To imagine four or five years ago that the idea of the Wine Celebration would grow into what it is today – it’s almost extraordinary.
I will continue to be involved with The V Foundation because I have realized that the money raised can actually make a difference in the possibility of finding a cure for cancer. It hits me when I actually see the donation dollars get transferred to actual doctors who are searching for a cure. It’s not all about the dollars, though. It’s the people whom I have never met, walk up and thank me for helping them – as survivors of cancer.
Starting off where we did, as a small group and working together from scratch to succeed in raising a significant amount of money for cancer research – that’s what makes me think we have something special – something different than other fundraisers. I’ve also learned that when the idea and planning are right, there is no limit on what one can accomplish.
Derek Reisinger was raised in Northern California (Marin County). His family lived next to the Constantin’s in San Rafael.He attended school with Andrew starting in the second grade. He graduated from Dominican College with an International Business degree. He worked for Nordstrom for almost ten years, a job that ultimately took him to New York.
After leaving Nordstrom he attend a six-week Spanish language immersion course in Costa Rica and then accepted a job on sailboat for nine months on the upper pacific side of the country, living on the boat, taking care of it during the day and crewing on sunset charters during the evening. He has been in the claims division at Safeco Insurance Company for over five years now.
Derek is very close to his family and was married to Cathy in September 2002. It should be noted that they married in September since their entire summer was blocked out because of their shared commitment to the Wine Celebration. Cathy is now a Wine Celebration volunteer, as well. His parents, Larry and Joann, have been married over 38 years. Younger sister, Kedra, is married to Greg, a Seattle firefighter. Nephew, Larsen, is nine months old.