Dick Vitale, a passionate and restless advocate for raising money for pediatric cancer research, has hosted many special children over the years at his annual Dick Vitale Gala in Sarasota, Florida. Some of these children include Jake Taraska and Wes Hermann from Lakewood Ranch, Coleton Korney from Parrish (all Manatee County), N’Jhari Jackson from Tampa, Cole Eicher from Clearwater, and Josh Fisher, from Odessa, Emily Ayers from Sanford, Cannon Wiggins from Orlando, Enzo Grande from Wake Forest, North Carolina, Sadie Keller from Dallas, Texas, and Jared Rascio from Far Hills, New Jersey.
Two things these children all have in common is the courage they helmed during their battles with cancer and the generosity they have shown during their remission. Vitale has formed friendships with these children and remains in awe when he learns of their own efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer research. These resilient kids form a group Vitale has appropriately deemed his All Courageous Team.
Jake Taraska, 21 years old, was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma at 18 months old and doctors were unsure he would ever be able to walk or talk due to severe side effects from treatment. He has dedicated himself to helping others kids with cancer and raising money for pediatric cancer research through the V Foundation. He is in college now.
Wes Hermann is 11 years old and was diagnosed with brain cancer undergoing extensive surgery and chemotherapy. He is in remission and has returned to the sport he loves – ice hockey. Wes and his family are strong supporters of Dick Vitale’s mission helping to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research.
Coleton Korney is 15 years old and was diagnosed with Ewings sarcoma of the right fibula on his last day of school. He finished his last chemo treatment this past year and rang the bell at All Children’s Hospital.
N’Jhari Jackson, 15 years old, underwent surgery on his vocal chords at 5 years old and, in result, endured autoimmune disease. He is now cancer free and has created thousands of care packages for hospitalized children and has written two children’s books donating all proceeds to pediatric cancer research through the V Foundation.
Cole Eicher, 17 years old, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Since finishing his treatment in 2014, Cole has raised thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research through his own efforts and by teaming up with the Rowdies soccer team.
Josh Fisher, 10 years old, was only 2 ½ years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Within four years, he underwent 1200 doses of chemotherapy along with bone marrow transplants and radiation. Fortunately, Joshua has been cancer free since 2014 and, alongside his family, raises support for pediatric cancer research.
Emily Ayers, 10 years old, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at 3 years of age. During her recovery from transplant surgery, she listened to the Jimmy V ESPY Speech which inspired her to not give up and to help others suffering from the same disease when she recovered. Emily loves soccer.
Cannon Wiggins, 13 years old, was diagnosed with Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma at 20 months old and underwent extensive treatment for 3 ½ years
Enzo Grande, 11 years old, was diagnosed with pre B ALL (leukemia) and underwent treatment for 3 years. He is now cancer free and loves to play basketball and soccer.
Sadie Keller, 12 years old, was diagnosed with pre B ALL (leukemia). Sadie started a toy drive called Sadie’s Sleigh and gathered over 4,600 toys to donate to kids in the hospitals battling cancer during Christmas.
Jared Rascio, 11 years old, was diagnosed with leukemia and is now cancer free.
These members of Vitale’s All Courageous Team, despite their battles and in addition to their triumphs, have found ways to do their part to help other children in need. These acts of kindness will be met by others at this year’s Dick Vitale Gala, taking place on Friday, May 10th at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.
Although the event is sold out, donations can be made at www.DickVitaleGala.org.
About The V Foundation for Cancer Research
The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN commentator. To date, The V Foundation has awarded $23.1 million of its total $150 million to life-saving pediatric cancer research grants nationwide. Due to generous donors, the Foundation has an endowment that covers administrative expenses. The Foundation awards peer-reviewed grants through a competitive awards process vetted by a Scientific Advisory Committee. For more information on The V Foundation or to make a donation, please visit www.jimmyv.org
photos courtesy of Mary Kenealy Events