LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For nearly 20 years, Hall of Fame ESPN basketball analyst and Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale has traveled the world to raise awareness and funds for cancer research through the V Foundation, a nonprofit created by former friend and colleague Jimmy Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993.
Each year, Vitale and his wife, Lorraine, host a gala to raise no less than $1 million for cancer.
Though their cause seems emotionally and mentally overwhelming, the Vitales haven't slowed down and their efforts have helped raise over $100 million for cancer research.
Amazed by Vitale's strong commitment to fighting cancer, Tampa portrait artist Kristin Osterman, a former college basketball player, decided to create an artistic rendition one of the most iconic moments in sports television history shared by Vitale and Valvano.
In March of 1993, Valvano, the former North Carolina State University men's basketball coach, delivered an emotional speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the inaugural ESPY Awards presented by ESPN, the global sports television network. During the speech, Valvano announced the creation of the V Foundation For Cancer Research and famously says the foundation's motto will be 'Don't give up, don't ever give up."
In closing, Valvano tells the crowd "it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul," in regards to his battle with cancer. As he received a standing ovation from the crowd, Valvano was embraced by Vitale.
"That's how it all started," Vitale recalled.
Less than eight weeks later giving the speech, Valvano lost his battle with cancer. He was 47.
Osterman's piece, titled "The Promise," is a black and white acrylic painting of Vitale hugging Valvano just before he takes the stage. On Saturday, Osterman's husband, Jeff Osterman, an associate women's basketball coach at the University of South Florida, delivered the painting to Vitale at the Broken Egg restaurant in Lakewood Ranch, along with a letter from Kristin describing the artwork.
"This piece was created in honor of a promise between friends," the letter reads.
The gift moved the vibrant announcer to tears.
"She drew that and wrote about our relationship," Vitale said. "I was so touched."
"I wanted to capture that symbolic moment and what that meant between them," said Osterman, a self-taught artist.
Kristin Osterman gave Vitale the original artwork and will recreate the painting to be auctioned off to raise money for the V Foundation. Vitale started the bidding at $1,000.
"I did it to give and for whatever way he finds useful," Kristin said. "I'm humbled he liked it."
Tuesday marked ESPN's Sixth Annual Jimmy V Week For Cancer Research, a weeklong televised initiative to raise money for the V Foundation. During the week, Valvano's 1993 ESPY speech will be simulcast on the all the network's domestic channels and will conclude with the Jimmy V Women's and Men's Basketball Classics. The event has helped raise over $5 million in five years and to kick off this year's event, ESPN pledged $1 million to the V Foundation.
"Today, Jimmy would jump for joy to know we have raised over $100 million," Vitale said.
Osterman ends her letter with this: "Jim Valvano may be missed, but he has not left Dick Vitale in the quest to cure cancer. He has been right there, by his side, for every dollar raised and every life touched."
To bid for the painting, those interested should call 941-350-0580 or visit www.dickvitaleonline.com. The painting will remain at the Broken Egg, at 6115 Exchange Way in Lakewood Ranch, until it is sold.
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams