LAKEWOOD RANCH — As Jeanine Livingston sat at a table at the Broken Egg restaurant in Lakewood Ranch, her 3-year-old son, Eddie, climbed into her lap. Jeanine loosely wrapped her arms around him.
This morning, two other families are gathered to meet with the Livingstons and ESPN commentator and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Dick Vitale. And in just moments, the conversation turns to Vitale’s obsession — the fight against cancer.
Eddie, diagnosed with a stage-four neuroblastoma cancer a year ago, is on a six-week break from treatments that resumes May 6.
To his right, Sarasota Military Academy student Ashley Krueger, 17, is thankful to have completed treatment for a rare bone and soft-tissue cancer in February.
And to his left, 12-year-old Kyle Peters, of Sarasota, is back to playing baseball after having four rounds of chemotherapy and 20 radiation treatments to his brain. He finished treatment in January 2011.
“These are three examples of youngsters who shouldn’t be going through (chemotherapy),” Vitale said, glancing around the table at the families being honored at his upcoming fundraising gala. “The doctors need dollars for research. Our goal is to raise a minimum of $1 million.”
On May 18, Vitale will host the seventh annual Dick Vitale Gala, at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. Net proceeds from this year’s event, which will honor coaching greats Lou Holtz, Jay Wright and Gary Williams, specifically will benefit pediatric cancer research initiatives at All Children’s Hospital, the Moffitt Cancer Center and Shands Cancer Center in Gainesville through The V Foundation.
Although the gala itself is sold out, Vitale is asking the community to help contribute to the cause, either by donating online or participating in a raffle to win a 2012 Mercedes, and to help reach his goal of raising $1 million.
Also waging a war against cancer, the Payton Wright Foundation, a non-profit that provides financial and other assistance to families of children with brain cancer and supports pediatric brain cancer research, is gearing up for its annual golf fundraiser this week. The organization, founded in 2008 by Patrick and Holly Wright in honor of their daughter, Payton, who died of brain cancer at 5 years old, will host its annual Payton Wright Foundation Golf Outing at noon May 4, at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club. A banquet for golfers and non-golfers alike will follow the tournament at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $50 and include food, live entertainment and live-and-silent auctions.
“We really are all about bringing awareness,” Patrick Wright said. “Payton’s Foundation is really starting to get a lot of national scope, but it’s awesome to see our local community still rallying around Payton’s cause.”
The foundation, since its inception, has helped local families such as the Livingstons, as well as Ivette and Anthony Littlejohn, whose 1-year-old son, Adrian, died of cancer May 1, 2011.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
2012 Payton Wright Foundation Golf Outing
WHEN: Golfing at noon May 4; banquet at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, 7650 Legacy Blvd.
DETAILS: Golfing includes golf cart, lunch, greens fee and banquet ticket. Cost is $200 per player; banquet costs $50 per person and includes dinner, silent auction and live music.
2012 Dick Vitale Gala
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. May 18
WHERE: The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota
HOW TO HELP: Donations are being accepted online at www.dickvitaleonline.com via the “V Foundation” tab. For $100, you also can purchase a chance to win a 2012 Mercedes at www.jimmyv.org/vitaleraffle2012.