LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Like the good sport he is, Dick Vitale, legendary basketball commentator and Lakewood Ranch resident, gladly endured buckets of cold water being thrown on him by family, friends, business acquaintances and young basketball players as part of a national challenge sweeping the country to support the fight against breast cancer and his own personal passion, pediatric cancer.
"I'm feeling good and I'm still living," Vitale said afterward as he grabbed a towel and headed for the noonday sun to quickly warm up.
Vitale entertained an enthusiastic crowd Thursday afternoon gathered outside First Watch restaurant in Town Center at Lakewood Ranch while he took part in the #Chillin4Charity Cold Water Challenge to support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, a charitable organization committed to finding a cure for breast cancer, established in memory of Kay Yow.
Yow was head coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack women's basketball team from 1975 to 2009 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was also a colleague of Jim Valvano, the head men's basketball coach at North Carolina State who also died of cancer. Vitale befriended Valvano, nicknamed "Jimmy V," early in his broadcasting career and has worked tirelessly to fight pediatric cancer through his V Foundation.
Syndey Sforzo, couldn't wait to see Vitale's reaction when she, along with her brother and cousins, gladly reached for buckets to douse him on the part of friends who donated but couldn't be there.
"It's always fun to do these things with him and hang out. I'm very proud of him," she said before Vitale took the plunge.
His friend of 20 years, John Persio, couldn't resist a dunk, either.
"Who could pass up throwing a bucket of water over Dick Vitale?"
The Cold Water Challenge was initiated by Arizona women's basketball head coach Niya Butts to hundreds of women's basketball teams across the country, who quickly accepted and passed on the challenge.
By accepting the challenge from organizer Leah Secondo, a Lakewood Ranch resident, Realtor and fellow Hall of Fame sports broadcaster, Vitale helped raise almost $4,000 for the Kay Yow and V Foundation charities combined. Wearing his regular street clothes and shoeless, Vitale good-naturedly submitted to nearly a dozen buckets of cold water thrown on him from his grandchildren, friends and the Cardinal Mooney girls basketball team from Sarasota.
"It was a no-brainer when I heard about it. Dick was the first person I called. We know Dick has a passion for trying to find a cure for cancer. He has taken it to a whole new level with The V Foundation," said Secondo, who also accepted a cold-water dunking.
By being a participant, Vitale met the challenge from Secondo, who donated $50 to the Kay Yow Foundation on his behalf. She also challenged three friends and sports professionals to suffer the same fate as Vitale within 48 hours. If they don't accept, Secondo said they each have to donate $250 to the foundation, and if they accept, then Secondo will donate $50 for each of her colleagues.
In addition, Vitale said he raised $3,500 for his V Foundation from family, friends and local business owners who pledged $100 each to see him get dunked with water. He is already fast at work planning to raise several million dollars for his 2015 Annual Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.