Sports Legends Gather to Support Spinal Cord Injury Research
A host of VIPs came together to raise money for The Buoniconti Fund for research and clinical trials.
By UM News

A host of VIPs came together to raise money for The Buoniconti Fund for research and clinical trials.
Sports Legends Gather to Support Spinal Cord Injury Research
By UM News
Great Sports Legends Dinner raises more than $12 million for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis

Celebrities, sports legends, corporate leaders, and more joined NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, his son Marc, and Event Chair Mark Dalton as they hosted a sold-out crowd in celebration of the 30th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.

Held at New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria on October 6, the dinner paid tribute to philanthropic heroes and sports icons who inspire and motivate those affected by spinal cord injuries, and raised more than $12 million for research and the Human Clinical Trials Initiative at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“With five active clinical trials, including combining a patient’s own Schwann cells with exercise and rehabilitation, we are changing medical history, which could not have happened without the funds raised each year at the annual Great Sports Legends Dinner,” said Nick Buoniconti, founder of The Buoniconti Fund. “The continued passionate support for The Buoniconti Fund and The Miami Project means a great deal to our mission to find a cure for paralysis.”

NBC news icon Tom Brokaw served as master of ceremonies of the dinner, not only to support the efforts of The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, but to honor this year’s Great Sports Legends: Jorge Posada, Karl Malone, Ray Lewis, John Stockton, Michelle Kwan, Victor Espinoza, Jennifer Capriati, and Chip Ganassi. Music legends the Beach Boys and the Pointer Sisters treated guests to special performances.

Philanthropists Paul and Swanee DiMare, friends of the Buoniconti family for decades, were so moved by the evening and the progress of the scientific team that they came to the podium to pledge $5 million to support the multiple clinical trials underway at The Miami Project.

The Buoniconti Fund also paid tribute to Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The 26-time Grammy Award-winning power couple received The Buoniconti Fund Inspiration Award. Orianne and Phil Collins, one of the most successful songwriters and performers of all time, are co-founders of the Little Dreams Foundation and received the Humanitarian Award.

Also during the evening, The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation trustees Mary Wilson, Ralph Wilson’s widow, and Mary Owen, his niece, announced a $2 million gift to fund The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery at The Miami Project in honor of Miami Project’s founder Dr. Barth A. Green.

Other notables in attendance included Brazilian auto racing driver Helio Castroneves; actor Christian Slater, who is currently starring on the TV show Mr. Robot; singer and entertainer Wayne Newton; Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly; New York Giants Hall of Fame Linebacker Harry Carson; Dan Florek from Law and Order; Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team; Gary Hall Jr., three-time Olympic medalist swimmer; Bill O’Reilly from Fox News; Jay Williams, former Chicago Bulls and Duke University basketball national player of the year; 1991 World Series champion pitcher Scott Erickson; Lisa Guerrero, award-winning chief investigative correspondent for Inside Edition; Rod Gilbert, New York Rangers Hall of Famer; Rick Barry, NBA Hall of Fame basketball player; Bruce Bowen, three-time champion with the San Antonio Spurs; Erik Coleman, retired football player and current analyst with SNYtv; Mark Rypien, Washington Redskins Super Bowl MVP quarterback; Dick Anderson, two-time Miami Dolphins Super Bowl champion safety; former WNBA player Teresa Edwards; Bob Beamon, Olympic gold medalist and former world record-holder in the long jump; Iman Oubou, Miss New York 2015; Rohan Marley, entrepreneur, former University of Miami linebacker, and son of legendary reggae star Bob Marley; Jill Martin, Today Show personality; actor Vincent Piazza from Jersey Boys and Boardwalk Empire; and radio host and comedian “Goumba Johnny” Sialiano.

The annual Great Sports Legends Dinner benefits The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and raises funds to support the cutting-edge spinal cord injury research done by researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Since its inception in 1985, the Great Sports Legends Dinner has honored more than 300 sports legends and honorees and has raised more than $100 million for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs.

For more information about The Buoniconti Fund and to take part in the conversation on social media, please visit Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtags #CureParalysis and #GSLD30.