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Dick Vitale’s gala brings the stars and the big bucks

Dick Vitale’s career is basketball. His fame as a coach-turned-ESPN announcer has earned him a place in the Hall of Fame.

But, his passion is helping to find a cure for cancer. He was inspired by his friend, the late Jim Valvano, to “never give up” on the fight against the disease.

The two worlds came together last Friday night when he hosted the fourth annual Dick Vitale Gala, benefiting the V Foundation for Cancer Research. His wife, Lorraine, daughters Sherri and Terri and their husbands, helped him welcome the 750-plus guests at the Ritz-Carlton.

A galaxy of sports stars were out, including many from basketball. The evening’s honorees were Gator basketball coach Billy Donovan and University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. Coaches John Calipari, Rich Adubato and Hall-of-Famer Bob Lanier attended.

New Bucs coach Raheem Morris, Gator football coach Urban Meyer and former Bucs quarterback Doug Williams were there. So was tennis great Nick Bollettieri. Pro golfer (and cancer survivor) Paul Azinger brought his family.

However, the guests of honor were the people who know how important it is to find a cure. Among the many in the room were Jim Valvano’s brother, Nick. Former Bradenton Christian student Anthony Negrin, who has a rare blood disorder, brought his family and his doctors.

Other guests included Holly and Patrick Wright who lost their daughter and Shanna and Eric Nichols who lost one daughter to leukemia and another is fighting it now.

At the end of the night, more than $1.1 million dollars was raised for All Children’s Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center. That’s awesome, baby!

Susan Wilcox, a Florida native, has lived in Bradenton for more than 20 years. She has been active in many local organizations as a volunteer or an employee.