Tireless icon, Dick Vitale changing lives of kids with cancer

Image 1 of 8

Dick Vitale is approaching his 80th birthday and there's no slowing him down.

Dickie V is a man possessed with an unmatched passion to save young lives. It comes from a guiding principal instilled in him as a child.

"I would probably hear 10-15 times a day: 'Richie, be good to people and people we be good to you,'" Vitale said he would hear from his mother. "People have been so good to me." 

Vitale is working year-round to continue his crusade to crush pediatric cancer. Since 2005 his galas have raised nearly $30-million in charitable donations.

The kids he has grown to know have changed his life forever. One, in particular, Tony Colton, in his dying days, re-enforced Vitale's mission.

Fighting back tears, Vitale remembers Colton's final moments.

"I went to the bedside, hugged him and he said he me, basically whispered, I could barely hear him. 'Keep doing what you're doing,'" Vitale said. "I told him, until my last breath. I'm going to beg and I'm going to plead to people I know to donate money to help us. It's a vicious disease."

As the icon of college basketball, Vitale knows he has the platform to make a difference. 

"I'm not the most polished broadcaster," said Vitale. "I've had fun with what I've done. I've always been from my heart with whatever I've done. Tried to speak from my heart and do things from my heart."

It's Dickie V's limitless passion is what has elevated him to Hall of Fame status. His high school yearbook describes him as "everybody's buddy." 

Vitale was the first to broadcast a college basketball game at ESPN and, 40 years later, he's still entertaining fans. There's not a day that goes by he doesn't hear some of his signature phrases, which have become part of the country's vocabulary. 

"I feel great," said Vitale. "I just heard it this morning. I had my coffee and eggs down at the Broken Egg and two people walked by and, 'Are we PTP-ers?' I must get that every day. Somewhere, through the course of the day, somebody is screaming. If I go to the airport, some of the bellmen, the skycap guys are screaming and yelling 'PTP-er! I'm awesome, baby!' It's fun. Why wouldn't it be fun? Imitation is a sign of flattery, really."

Dick Vitale is about to receive a lifetime achievement Emmy Award, joining Howard Cosell, John Madden, and Vinny Scully, as legendary broadcasters. It's a distinguished career that Vitale hopes leaves a long-lasting impression.