LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale was sitting in his office last month preparing for a college basketball game, as he often does this time of year, when the phone rang.
The ESPN college basketball analyst could only assume it was a budding reporter looking for insight into this season’s biggest contests; a colleague calling to discuss the next stop on their tour around the country; or a family friend hoping to spread some holiday cheer.
But, as it turns out, last month’s phone call wasn’t an ordinary call from a reporter, colleague or friend.
Instead, it was the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay calling to congratulate Vitale on being named this year’s Man of the Year.
“I was thrilled,” Vitale said of the honor. “I have great respect for Ronald McDonald House. They provide opportunities for families to be close to their children while they’re battling deadly diseases.”
The Man of the Year award is a part of the Ronald McDonald House’s Award of Excellence Program. The annual award recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to the well-being of children and their families.
Vitale will be honored May 15, during Ronald McDonald House’s Storybook Ball at the A La Carte Event Pavilion, in Tampa. In recognition of his dedication to children, Vitale will also receive a $50,000 grant, which he plans to donate to pediatric-cancer research.
“I was just absolutely blown away,” Vitale said. “Fifty-thousand dollars is a nice, healthy donation.”
Vitale said the grant money will help put him one step closer to his overall goal this year of raising $1 million for pediatric cancer, which he hopes to raise by the fifth annual Dick Vitale Gala May 21.
“I love young kids and nothing breaks your spirit more than seeing a little child battling this disease,” Vitale said. “I’ve visited kids at a variety of hospitals while they were undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It tears your gut apart and brings you to tears.
“I’m emotionally charged up,” he added. “I hope and pray that so many dollars are (raised) … and the end roads are made. I would give anything, it (might not be) in my lifetime, but if someday there was the great news of a cure for cancer. That would be absolutely magical, marvelous and magnificent.”
Over the past four years, The V Foundation has raised almost $5 million for pediatric cancer through its annual gala.
For more information on the fifth annual Dick Vitale Gala or to make a donation to pediatric cancer, visit www.dickvitaleonline.com or www.jimmyv.org. For more information on the Ronald McDonald House of Tampa Bay, visit www.rmhctampabay.com.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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