SARASOTA – It’s a night of sports and glitz, but really it’s all about the kids.

“This is why you’re donating, this is why we do what we do, the kids are a big part of the fundraising,” says 17-year old Tony Colton.

The Dick Vitale Gala raises millions every year for pediatric cancer research, something 14-year-old Ethan McNary says doesn’t get the funding it needs to find a cure.

“Four cents for every dollar? That’s crazy, I didn’t even know that till tonight,” McNary says. “Raising money for this means so much to me, because I don’t want another kid to go through this.”

Cole Eicher says he was in shock when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.

“Because I was a really healthy kid,” he says. “I was playing soccer, I was a regular teen just having fun, and it just boom hit me.”

Now he’s in remission, raising money to help other kids fight.

“I can say that I’m back playing soccer, back to school, back to everything that I was back to and I’m enjoying life,” Eicher said.

Vitale’s goal is $3 million dollars for the Jimmy V Foundation, but his work isn’t over after the Gala ends. He works tirelessly year round with these kids, making their cancer journey a little easier.

“He’s been really inspiring to me, and how he’s passionate toward these things, in my mind he’s my best friend,” 11-year-old Marissa Peddie said.

It’s Tony Colton’s second Gala. He says the years he was too sick to come, Vitale still made sure he was honored.

“He remembers the kids very personally, and just to be at an event held by a guy like that is incredible,” Colton said.

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Lynden Blake
Lynden Blake is an Auburn University graduate with a degree in journalism. As an aspiring sportscaster she has worked in many media outlets. She’s currently a news and sports reporter for Suncoast News Network in Sarasota, Florida. Previously she interned for Fox Sports Florida where she worked with the production team during Tampa Bay Rays games and freelanced for covering the Miami Heat during the 2015 NBA Summer League. She shadowed at WRBL News 3 in Columbus, Ga. her last semester in Auburn. Previously, she was a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc. and did many television and radio gigs for Sportz Blitz and AHSAA Radio Network. As a Tigerette at Auburn she hosted the nation’s top football prospects on game-day visits and official visits during the off season. She has always had passion for sports as she was a three-sport athlete in high school playing softball and basketball and cheering for Benjamin Russell High School.