Dick Vitale is an Awesome V Foundation Supporter, Baby!
Article by Katie Sweet
“If only Dick Vitale had more energy. If only he had more passion and wasn’t afraid to ask people to help. If only there was a cause Dick cared deeply about,” said no one. Ever.
Before cancer took his life, Jim Valvano left his quest to end the disease in the hands of The V Foundation. As a friend of Jim’s and a member of the Foundation’s board, ESPN commentator Dick Vitale hasn’t taken the challenge lightly.
It’s easy to see why the two men became close. Besides their northern roots, a shared love of the hardwoods and big personalities, Jim and Dick declared publicly their personal missions to end cancer. Dick was there for Jim in his final weeks with cancer, escorting him to the stage for his iconic speech in which he announced a partnership between ESPN and The V Foundation. And when Jim lost his battle, Dick picked up the playbook and is helping draw a plan for a slam dunk.
Dick has taken a special interest in the smallest of cancer patients, dedicating his life to helping find cures for pediatric cancer. The survival rate for childhood cancer is going up, but still, one in five children don’t survive. When your child is the one, that statistic doesn’t seem impressive. It isn’t where The V Foundation and Dick want to stop.
“I love young kids. I love them. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see a kid battling cancer and going through chemo. I’ve gotten to know the kids and seen the suffering, and I want to help,” he said exclaimed with the same passion you hear during his broadcasting work.
By help, Dick means his time, his personal donations and his passion. Every year since 2006, Dick has hosted The Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota, Florida. To date, the event has raised more than $12 million – all directed to pediatric cancer research. The Gala hosts some of the biggest names in sports on one night and then a smaller, more intimate party on the second night. The 2015 event raised $2.3 million.
But Dick doesn’t just stand in the background and raise money in his free time. His social media draws constant attention to his cause. He talks about his mission on broadcasts. He visits the kids, meets their families and truly takes their cause to heart.
“I had a book – Dickie V’s ABCs and 1-2-3s – with basketball terms. My wife and I went to see these kids getting treatments. They asked me to read it to them. When I was done, I said, ‘They look healthier than my own grandkids.’ That’s when the nurses told me all those kids were so sick – tumors and leukemia. My wife and I went back to our car, and a water faucet went off. We just sat there and cried. I was going to a baseball game. The nurse said, ‘These kids aren’t going to a baseball game. They are in a bed all day.’ Things like that touch you. They should be doing ballet and baseball, not getting treatments and suffering.”
We know Dick Vitale from his booming voice and dynamic personality. We hear him shout things like, “Awesome, baby!” and “That’s a diaper dandy!” every college basketball season. But what the public doesn’t always see is that same enthusiasm directed at stopping a disease that affects 12,000 to 15,000 kids a year. You think he likes basketball? Wait until you strike up a conversation with him about helping kids with cancer.
“Names like Lacey and Adrien and Payton and Eddie – they might not mean much to you, but to me, they mean a lot. I got to know them, and they lost their fight. I vow to my last breath that I will beg, and I will plead to raise as much as possible. It breaks my heart to hear that only 4 percent of every cancer research dollar goes to pediatric research,” he said.
The V Foundation is lucky to have an advocate like Dick Vitale helping in the fight against pediatric cancer. But he can’t – and we can’t – win this without help. Science is improving; survival rates are climbing. Children are surviving! But we aren’t finished. For all the ways you can get involved and help save lives, please visit here.