- Associated Press - Monday, April 23, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - Dick Vitale’s voice cracked as he discussed his self-described obsession with raising money for pediatric cancer research.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” the longtime college basketball television analyst said.

“I’m in 13 Hall of Fames, and none that compares to what I feel in my heart that this is all about,” Vitale added. “This is about lives. This is about people. … If we had more dollars, we could be saving so many kids.”

Since 2006, the annual Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota, Florida, has raised more than $21 million for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a charitable organization named for the late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano.

Last year’s event attracted celebrities, donors and cancer survivors from across the nation and raised $3.12 million. Vitale hopes this year’s gala on May 11 will bring in $3.5 million.

“That will put us at a grand total of $25 million that we’ve raised,” Vitale, who lives in Sarasota, said by phone. “It blows me away when I think about it. We started this at my house with a couple of hundred people. To think, we’re at a point of raising $25 million, that just blows my mind.”

This year’s honorees include Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, Florida State basketball coach Leonard Hamilton and longtime ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman.

Expected among a sold-out crowd of 850 are Final Four coaches Jay Wright (national champion Villanova), John Beilein (Michigan), Porter Moser (Loyola-Chicago) and Bill Self (Kansas).

“I’m obsessed with trying to help kids battle cancer,” said the 78-year-old Vitale, a former college and NBA coach who’s worked for ESPN since 1979.

“I’ve gotten to know so many of them since the inception of my gala, and it just breaks my heart to see what their moms and dads and families go through. I’m a grandfather, I’m a father. I can’t imagine the pain. No parents, no family should have to go through that.”

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