News

Kicking Off Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month with the Virtual Dick Vitale Gala

Dick Vitale and the V Foundation for Cancer Research will present the Annual Dick Vitale Gala, “Passion 4 Pediatrics”, virtually on Friday, September 4, 2020.  Honorees Bruce Arians, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach, Mark Few, Gonzaga University Head Basketball Coach, and ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith as well as Courage Award recipients Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and co-founder of the NBA’S Orlando Magic and Basketball Hall of Famer Pat Williams will be recognized for their personal, professional and philanthropic achievements.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research, Mary Kenealy Events , Dick and Lorraine Vitale and our loyal host hotel of 15 years, The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, have been monitoring the status of COVID-19 in relation to the Gala.   The current health crisis mandates the very difficult decision that the Dick Vitale Gala will now be a 100% virtual event. The health and well-being of event attendees, our employees and volunteers is the number one priority; thus we cannot move forward with a live event at this time.

“Although we are saddened at being unable to be with Dick’s “All Courageous” in person, we look forward to being with our friends virtually for the annual Dick Vitale Gala,” said Susan Braun, CEO of the V Foundation.  “Dick and Lorraine and the team at Mary Kenealy Events have worked very hard to bring us all together this year and share their passion for funding life-saving research for kids with cancer.  We ask for your understanding and continued support!”

Vitale is a true champion for pediatric cancer research, raising nearly $30 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 need for more funding for research continues.  Just four percent of federal cancer research funding is dedicated to pediatric cancer. Private funding is critical to propelling research for this leading cause of death by disease in American children.

“In today’s world, virtual events have become the way of life due to COVID-19”, states Dick Vitale. “We are excited to provide so many virtually with a night to remember.  Everyone that experiences our Gala to help kids battling cancer will be moved to tears, to laughter and to thought, as Jimmy V said in his “Don’t Ever Give Up” speech that captivated so many.  More than ever, we need your help in raising dollars.  My wife and I receive numerous calls, emails and letters from parents with the life-changing news that their child has cancer.  Your donation may ultimately save someone you know, someone you love.”

Two pediatric cancer research grants will be given this year in memory of those that lost their battle with cancer. Best-selling author Mitch Albom will be a special guest of the event. A pediatric cancer research grant will be named 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.

In addition, a grant will be named in memory of Will DeGregorio, 11 years old, who passed away in June after a long battle with cancer.  Diagnosed at 3 years of age 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.  The family was exploring additional treatment options and they had planned to attend the Dick Vitale Gala.

The 15th Annual Dick Vitale Gala Virtual Experience will be available for subscribers to view and to support the mission to fund the most promising pediatric cancer research.  We look forward to providing a rich virtual event, raising critical funds for pediatric cancer research, this fall. For more information or to participate in the Virtual Gala, please call the Mary Kenealy Events Gala Office at (941) 350-0580. To donate towards pediatric cancer research, please visit www.v.org/donate4kids.