10th Annual Dick Vitale Gala: A Smashing Success!

We’ve finally had some time to breathe, and were able to put something together about May’s Dick Vitale Gala – one of our biggest events we’ve done each year for the past 10 years.  For those of you who don’t know how the Gala started, Dick & Lorraine Vitale had an idea to host a fundraiser for the V Foundation in honor of Dick’s dear friend, Jim Valvano, and invited 50 of their nearest and dearest to their home one Sarasota Spring evening in May…and we haven’t stopped planning since! That first event, 10 years ago, ended up with 350 guests at their home that evening. 

The Gala has grown to be one of the most sought after tickets in town, and boasts hosting some of the greatest athletes and coaches of all time.  This year, for example, Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston and Coach John Calipari (University of Kentucky) were just two of the nearly 100 celebrities that joined us. Three coaching greats, Coaches Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Jimbo Fisher (FSU) and Lovie Smith (Tampa Bay Bucs) were honored for their dedication to their respective sports as well as their dedicated efforts in raising funds for cancer research.  But wait…there’s more! 

Each year, the Gala numbers go up…and up…and up…We mentioned 50 guests at that first “Gala” at Dick & Lorraine’s house has now turned into nearly 900 (MAX capacity!) at the Ritz Carlton.  What if we told you the amount of money raised over the past 10 years has been over $15 million?  Would you believe us?  Well, it’s true.  In 2015 alone, the Dick Vitale Gala raised a record breaking $2.328 million for pediatric cancer research, and we’re not planning on stopping any time soon!  At $2.5 million, next year’s goal is even higher, and mark our words, we’ll reach that goal!  It certainly helps that Dick Vitale is one of the most passionate people we’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and he doesn’t quit!  He works tirelessly in raising money for the V Foundation, and it’s working! 

Some of the Gala’s most special guests aren’t sports celebrities at all, they’re kids with families, just like us, that are survivors.  Every single dollar that was raised that night went to fund research to help find a cure for pediatric cancers, the same cancers our extra special guests fought and come to the Gala to tell the story.  If you’ve never been, it’s an incredible evening.

Certainly the details were stunning, and the swag even better (autographed copies of George Bodenheimer’s “Every Town is a Sports Town” and Dick’s new book: “It’s Awesome, Baby!” - we highly recommend both!)  And, we’d like a few more of those sliders with a side of French fries that were served at the blow out after party (featuring Blood, Sweat and Tears!), but nothing made us more proud than to hear the Honorees, the special families and Dick speak about the true success of the past 10 years – advances in research that have saved lives!

In other news: Have you ever been to a party with 900 people?  Let us rephrase that…have you ever WORKED a party for 900 people?  How late did you work?  1a.m.?  2?  We worked until FIVE A.M. and wouldn’t have changed it for the world.  It was worth every single minute.

One of the unique elements to this particular event is that after all is said and done, after all the money is raised and all the speeches given and we dance the night away on the tented and transformed Ritz Carlton tennis courts (complete with blue uplighting (V Foundation signature color, of course), Go Go Dancers, and comfortable lounge furniture to sit back and take it all in…), we go back to where it all started – a small get together at the Vitale Residence.  Friday may be right for fundraising, rubbing elbows with celebrities, and generally kicking Cancer’s butt, but each year, on the day after the Gala, Dick & Lorraine invite their nearest and dearest into their home again, to celebrate the success of what has become one of the most incredible events we do each year – the Dick Vitale Gala.

Dick Vitale After Party 2015 (43).JPG

P.S. (Yep, doing a P.S. in a blog is a thing…) We’re already gearing up for next year’s Gala honoring University of Wisconsin Head Basketball Coach Bo Ryan, Good Morning America Anchor Robin Roberts, and The Ohio State University Head Football Coach Urban Meyer, and we KNOW you want more information.  Here’s what we know so far:  Friday, May 13, 2016, Ritz Carlton Sarasota.  Mark your calendars.  It’s going to be one for the history books!