32nd Great Sports Legends Dinner Raises Millions for Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, honored an unparalleled group of Hall of Famers, gold medalists, world champions and philanthropists in front of a crowd of more than 1,300 supporters Monday night at the New York Hilton Midtown, raising millions for spinal cord injury research during the 32nd Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner Presented by Tudor Group.
Among all the star athletes and celebrities who were honored or who attended, one particular Hall of Famer stood out for special tribute: the legendary Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti, who established The Miami Project and Buoniconti Fund following his son Marc’s paralyzing injury in a college football game.
The Great Sports Legends Dinner, hosted by Nick and Marc Buoniconti, honored legendary designated hitter and first baseman for the Boston Red Sox David “Big Papi” Ortiz, five-time Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles, Basketball Hall of Famer and former Miami Heat forward Alonzo Mourning, Hall of Fame defensive end and linebacker for the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets Jason Taylor, four-time IndyCar Racing Champion Scott Dixon, six-time tennis Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters, and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Abby Wambach.
The dinner, chaired by Tudor Group’s Mark Dalton, also featured the presentation of The Outstanding Philanthropist Award to NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France and his wife Amy, The Inspiration Award to television personality and victim rights activist John Walsh, The Buoniconti Fund Award to former Miami Dolphins and longtime Fund champion Dick Anderson, and The Humanitarian Award to renowned Brazilian neo-pop artist Romero Britto.
NBC personality and NBC Sunday Night Football Host Bob Costas emceed the event, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Chicago performed live.
The event also served as a launch for the publication of Undefeated: From Tragedy to Triumph (Post Hill Press, September 2017), a candid, compelling and inspiring memoir by Marc Buoniconti recounting his days as an admittedly reckless youth and teen to the day his world changed after his paralyzing football injury and how he has dedicated his life since to helping others, and to finding a cure for paralysis.
The Fund has raised some $350 million toward finding a cure for paralysis, and The Miami Project is the world leader in spinal cord injury research, treatment and programs. Located in the Lois Pope LIFE Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, The Miami Project is the only research center in the world conducting FDA clinical trials in spinal cord injury using the combination of Schwann cells and rehabilitation to attempt to re-stimulate damaged nerves.
“For 32 years the Great Sports Legend Dinner has supported a singular essential mission, finding a cure for paralysis,” said Marc Buoniconti. “The event has raised funds and awareness for groundbreaking, much-needed spinal cord injury research, as well as cutting-edge treatment and service programs. We’re honored to have the generosity and participation of so many iconic athletes and heroes who join us in providing hope for those living with paralysis, so together we can stand as one.”
Among the notables walking the Red Carpet were former Sports Legends honorees Grammy Award winning musician and producer Emilio Estefan; Grammy Award winning singer and musician Gloria Estefan; three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves; New York Giants Hall of Famer Harry Carson; 10-time Olympic Swimming Medalist (including five golds) Gary Hall, Jr.; eight-time All Star, National League Rookie of the Year and NL MVP Andre “The Hawk” Dawson; eight-time NBA All-Star and NBA champion with the Warriors Rick Barry; two-time Formula One world champion, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and CART championship racecar driver Emerson Fittipaldi; and 1968 Olympic long jump Gold Medalist Bob Beamon.
Celebrities and artists also showed their support at the event, including two-time NBA champion with Miami and NCAA basketball champion with Duke, Shane Battier; World Series champion with the Minnesota Twins Scott Erickson; fashion designer and businesswoman Nicole Miller; NY Giants linebacking great Brian Kelley, retired Miami Dolphins receiver Nat Moore; two-time Super Bowl Champion and Super Bowl MVP from the Washington Redskins Mark Rypien; actor Colin Egglesfield; NY Jets offensive lineman Brent Qvale; actor Joe Reitman; three-time NFL champion linebacker with the 49ers Riki Ellison; former Miami Dolphins running back Tommy Vigorito; Motion Picture Industry photographer Robert Zuckerman; Real Housewives of New Jersey star Dolores Catania; and Red Carpet Man About Town Tom Murro.
Sports Legends alumni include Michael Jordan, Willie Mays, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Tony Hawk, Tommy Lee Jones, Cal Ripken, Jr., Gloria Estefan, Jack Nicklaus, Wayne Gretzky, George Foreman, Julio Iglesias, Helio Castroneves, Troy Aikman, Joe DiMaggio, Muhammad Ali, Mario Andretti, Joe Namath, Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dan Marino, Lenny Wilkens, Mike Piazza, Pat Riley, Kelly Slater, Phil Collins, Joe Torre, Maya Angelou, Andre Agassi, Shaquille O’Neal, Tom Brokaw, and many other athletes and heroes – all of whom recognize that paralyzing injuries occur in the pursuit of athletic careers and everyday lives.
Since its inception in 1986, the Great Sports Legends Dinner has honored more than 300 sports legends and other honorees and has raised millions for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs. The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, through the research efforts of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, is committed to finding a cure for paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury and to seeing millions worldwide walk again.
For more information about The Buoniconti Fund, please visit: www.thebuonicontifund.com. To take part in the conversation on social media, follow us at facebook.com/cureparalysis, or on twitter and Instagram @BuonicontiFund and using the hashtags #BuonicontiFund and #SportsLegendsDinner.