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It was the biggest year yet for the Dick Vitale Gala. But Vitale says more is needed

Dick Vitale's goal for his 13th annual Gala is to raise $3.5 million for pediatric cancer research for the Jimmy V Foundation.
Dick Vitale's goal for his 13th annual Gala is to raise $3.5 million for pediatric cancer research for the Jimmy V Foundation. Herald file photo

After raising millions of dollars and honoring children battling cancer, Dick Vitale said more is still needed to help children with cancer.

Friday night, the Dick Vitale Gala raised a record-setting $3.7 million in funds for The V Foundation, surpassing the goal of $3.5 million. The funds benefit pediatric cancer research.

Vitale said achieving that level of fundraising at the 13th annual event was "mind-boggling," and it was a "very emotional" night. Over the event's 13 years, a total of more than $25.2 million dollars has been raised.

"It was amazing," Vitale said. "It means a lot, but we need a lot more. A lot of people aren’t aware that only four cents of every dollar goes to pediatric (cancer research). We need a hell of a lot more."

In addition to raising funds, two research grants were distributed at the gala, held at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. The grants were made in memory of two children who lost their lives to cancer. One of them was Tony Colton. Vitale visited Colton in the hospital weeks before his death.

Vitale recalled hugging Colton in the hospital bed, promising him to use his last breath to beg for donations to help children.

Honored guests Friday night were Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, ESPN radio personality Mike Greenberg and Florida State University men’s basketball coach Leonard Hamilton. The John Saunders V Foundation Award was given to sportscaster Chris Berman and ESPN reporter Shelley Smith. Several celebrities such as David Robinson, Grant Hill, all of this year's Final Four coaches and every Division I men's basketball coach in Florida were in attendance.

Next year's event is May 10, 2019 at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. Honored guests will be Chris Fowler, Avery Johnson and Dabo Swinney. The Saunders Courage Award recipients for 2019 are Holly Rowe and Lee Corso. The event is at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota.

In 2017, the gala raised $3.1 million.

"I've won a lot of great honors in my life. ... But I'm very blessed and very lucky and love giving back, but there's nothing more satisfying to me than helping kids in need," Vitale said.

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