15th Annual Dick Vitale Gala Raises More Than $7 Million for Pediatric Cancer Research
‘Passion 4 Pediatrics’ Virtual Experience Smashes Dick Vitale Fundraising Record
The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a top-rated cancer research charity, and ESPN Hall of Fame Sportscaster Dick Vitale announce the 15th Annual Dick Vitale Gala, “Passion 4 Pediatrics,” in conjunction with Vitale’s year-round fundraising, raised more than $7 million for pediatric cancer research. The virtual experience, hosted by Kevin Negandhi, raised a record-breaking figure, highlighting Vitale’s commitment to Victory Over Cancer®, especially as cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease in American children over 1 year old.
“I am in awe of the generosity and kindness shown in making this Gala so special,” said Vitale. “To think that we achieved record-breaking numbers with a virtual gala while facing the challenging pandemic is simply a tribute to all the beautiful people that joined in to help kids battling cancer. All I can say is, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ to everyone that was part of this incredible effort.”
This year’s event honored Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians, Gonzaga University Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Few and ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith. Additionally, two John Saunders V Foundation Courage Award recipients were recognized for their personal, professional and philanthropic achievements – Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and co-founder of the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Basketball Hall of Famer Pat Williams.
During the Gala, Vitale announced the naming of two V Scholar grants, the Mark Pentecost Pediatric Cancer Research Grant in Memory of Will DeGregorio and the Cindy Pentecost Pediatric Cancer Research Grant in Memory of Chika Jeune. Mark and Cindy Pentecost provided a generous donation to the V Foundation.
“We are honored to champion a great cause, such as pediatric cancer research. The V Foundation has grit, heart, and spirit,” said Cindy and Mark Pentecost. “Thank you to Dickie V for his commitment and leadership through the years.”
Best-selling author Mitch Albom accepted the grant in memory of Chika Jeune, for whom Albom was a guardian. She was born three days before the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and lived in an orphanage Albom operates in Port-au-Prince. At five years old, she was diagnosed with DIPG, an inoperable brain tumor, which began a two-year, around-the-world journey by Albom and his wife to find a cure. Kara Shields and Vincent DeGregorio accepted the grant in memory of their son, Will DeGregorio, 11 years old, who passed away in June after a long battle with cancer. Diagnosed at 3 years old with adrenal cancer, Will underwent intensive chemotherapy and recovered. The cancer returned four years later with two bouts of osteosarcoma requiring more chemotherapy and surgery.
“What Dick Vitale and the V Foundation have done for children with cancer is immeasurable. My wife and I lost an adopted daughter from a Haitian orphanage to a cancerous brain tumor at age 7,” said Albom, journalist, broadcaster and founder of the Have Faith Haiti Mission & Orphanage in Port-au-Prince. “This year, the Gala has seen fit to grant funds to fight against any such repeat with our other 51 orphaned children. Dick and all the V Foundation supporters have literally changed the future for these young children. It has given hope where there was none. I know no greater act of humanity than that.”
Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Officer of WWE®, made a special appearance during the evening to highlight three new pediatric Translational Grants to be funded in partnership between the Gala and WWE. Translational Grants are three-year awards of $600,000 total, and they support bench-to-bedside research. Two of the grants will fund studies related to DIPG, and the third grant will fund research for solid tumors. WWE and the V Foundation have been partners for five years. The new endeavor between the V Foundation, Dick Vitale and WWE has potential to make significant strides in the fight against pediatric cancer.
Vitale is a true champion for pediatric cancer research, raising more than $36 million to date for the pediatric fund in his name at the V Foundation. Overall, the V Foundation has awarded nearly $50 million in pediatric research grants. The V Foundation has proudly awarded more than $250 million to cutting-edge cancer research. The V Foundation holds a 4-star (highest) rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest evaluator of charities, and is among the top 3% of all charities evaluated. The Foundation is a GuideStar platinum-rated charity.
About the V Foundation for Cancer Research
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993, the Foundation has funded more than $250 million in cancer research grants nationwide. Event proceeds benefit cancer research funded by the V Foundation. The Foundation awards peer-reviewed grants through a competitive awards process strictly supervised by a Scientific Advisory Committee. For more information on the V Foundation or to make a donation, please visit v.org.