Dick Vitale has been inducted into 12 halls of fame and will soon make it a baker's dozen. But he says the most important thing is that it enables him to use his name to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
The renowned ESPN college basketball announcer recently learned that he will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame on Oct. 22 in Asbury Park.
He is one of 13 people and three sports figures selected. The others from the sports world are New York Yankees great Derek Jeter and U.S. Women's National Soccer Team captain Christie Rampone.
"To be inducted into a hall of fame in the state I grew up is special. It's where I started my dream as a coach in high school," Vitale said.
Vitale grew up in Garfield, N.J. He went to Elmwood Park High and later became the school's basketball coach, where he won back-to-back state titles before going on to coach at the University of Detroit and then the Detroit Pistons.
"The situation started with me dreaming as a kid," said Vitale, who was honored on Father's Day when he received the Liberty Bowl Distinguished Citizen Award in connection with St. Jude Hospital, which focuses on pediatric cancer.
At that event, he received a $25,000 grant for his annual fund drive for pediatric cancer research, which culminates with the Dick Vitale Gala in May.
"I set a goal this year of raising $2.5 million. It would be the most we've raised in a year and it's going to be a challenge," Vitale said. "Getting the distinguished citizen award was unbelievable. But my goal has never changed. Until my last breath, I will be raising dollars to help kids
with pediatric cancer."
A total of 50 nominees for the New Jersey Hall of Fame appeared on the official 2015 ballot. There were 10 in each of five categories: Arts & Letters, Enterprise, Performance Arts, Public Service and Sports. The public voting, along with input from the hall of fame's board of commissioners, selected this year's class. Nearly 100 individuals and groups have been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame since its inception in 2008.
The New Jersey Hall of Fame is a mobile museum that travels to communities throughout the state.
"We are honored to recognize this highly distinguished group of inductees," said Bart Oates, chairman of the New Jersey Hall of Fame Board of Commissioners. "Their achievements and the impact they have made in their respective fields are undeniable. They serve as an inspiration to us all."
In 2008, Vitale received basketball's ultimate honor when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor.
"The award in Memphis connected with St. Jude's was very special. When I was a kid, I lost my eye and my mother gave me a card of St. Jude to ensure that I would not lose the other eye. I've always kept it," Vitale said.
Anyone who wishes to donate to his pediatric cancer research funding drive can do so by contacting DickVitaleoneline.com or the V Foundation.