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Legendary broadcaster and former Detroit Mercy basketball coach Dick Vitale has been inducted into more hall of fames than he can count on both hands.

There’s the Titans Hall of Fame, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, and the list goes on.

But they all pale in comparison to Vitale’s mission to raise funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research.

“This is the most important thing I've been involved in in my life,” Vitale said. “I'm in 13 hall of fames. They were great moments and thrills, but nothing compares, in my heart, to what we are doing now trying to help kids. That, to me, is vital.”

Vitale said he made a promise to late friend and former college basketball coach Jim Valvano, who died in 1993 after a yearlong battle with cancer, that he would “plead for dollars until my last breath.” And he has stayed true to his word.

Vitale is teaming up with The V Foundation for Cancer Research once again for his 13th annual Dick Vitale Gala on May 11 at The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. The event has raised more than $21 million and Vitale has set a goal to reach $3.5 million in one night, which would top last year’s record of $3.1 million.

According to Vitale, only four cents out of every dollar raised for cancer goes for pediatrics, while the rest goes toward other worthy causes like prostate, colon, breast and lung cancer research. But every single penny of the net proceeds will help fund pediatric cancer research grants.

“Why I'm obsessed with this is we just lost a girl (Wednesday),” Vitale said. “At my gala, we honor and we pay tribute to what we call my All-Courageous Team. They’re a bunch of youngsters who are cancer survivors who are fighting the big battle. We had a girl coming by the name of Jordan Gugliemini. She was 10 years of age. She will not be at my gala.

“This is not the flu or the headache. We're talking about a number of kids that have been with me at my gala over the years who didn't make it and that's why we're fighting this fight.”

All the coaches from the Final Four – Michigan’s John Beilein, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Kansas’ Bill Self and Chicago-Loyola’s Porter Moser – as well as former Piston and Hall of Famer Grant Hill, will be among the 80 celebrities and sports figures on hand for the event.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh will be one of three honored guests at the gala for his work with the ChadTough Foundation, which raises money for pediatric brain tumor research and is in memory of Chad Carr, the grandson of longtime Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr who died at age of 5 from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. ESPN television and radio personality Mike Greenberg and Florida State men’s basketball coach Leonard Hamilton also will be honored.

Two grants also will be established in the names of Tony Colton, a 17-year-old who died in July after a long battle with cancer, and Chad Carr.

Tickets for the gala are sold out but those interested can be put on a waiting list by calling 941-350-0580. Donations can be made at dickvitalegala.org.

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/jamesbhawkins

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