Dick Vitale talks postponing his Sarasota gala and staying healthy while social distancing.
In Dick Vitale's mind, there was no other choice.
The 2020 Dick Vitale Gala, scheduled for May 8 at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, had to be moved. The gala will now be held September 4 at the Ritz-Carlton. The honorees will also remain the same, with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, Gonzaga men's basketball coach Mark Few and ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith scheduled to attend.
Even though other organizations, like The School District of Manatee County, are still hoping for an April return to normalcy, Vitale, a Hall of Fame college basketball announcer and a Lakewood Ranch resident, said he gave no thought to playing "wait and see."
"It is obvious that this is going to last a while," Vitale said. "We had to put people's heath and safety first. We could not wait to see what happens in a month. We had to make sure our honored guests could still attend, and the Ritz-Carlton did not have many open dates. It was almost booked completely, so we had to adjust now."
Vitale said he had multiple donors tell him that even if the event remained in May, their companies have implemented flight restrictions that would not have allowed them to attend. The September date is best for everyone, he said.
Until then, Vitale said, he remains dedicated to raising as much money for the event as he can. Ever the optimist, Vitale is once again hoping to beat last year's mark of $4.3 million raised, setting a goal of $5 million.
"I might be shooting for the stars here, but I'm going to try my best," Vitale said. "I can't worry about the pandemic when I am making calls. I cannot allow it to hold back my energy and my enthusiasm. I know it is a tough time. It is Struggle City right now for a lot of people. But I have to try. We are working 24/7. We have to do our best to raise money for these kids. People know their own finances. They know if they can donate."
In the meantime, Vitale is reacting to the pandemic like most people. Vitale said he is staying home when possible and sanitizes his hands so often, he "can't even count the number of times in a day." When not securing donations, Vitale is busy doing radio spots for various stations. Normally, this would be Vitale's busiest time of the year, breaking down the men's basketball NCAA Tournament for ESPN.
Not this year. The tournament was canceled, and Vitale thinks that, too, was the right move.
"I love college basketball," Vitale said. "I feel empty without it, but it has to go on the back burner right now. This is no time to be selfish.
"We have to listen to the experts. We have to follow the rules put in place by the medical world. This virus can be dangerous if you do not listen and stay six to eight feet apart and everything else."
In an ideal world, Vitale would have loved to host the event in May as originally scheduled. Unfortunately, nothing about the world is ideal right now. Moving the gala is the right move, and I cannot wait to be there in September.