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9.27.2011

Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner Raises More Than $10 Million to Cure Paralysis

The 26th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner, held at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City Monday night, raised more than $10 million to support groundbreaking spinal cord injury research by the Miller School of Medicine’s Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which is at a historic juncture. Among its many scientific advances, the organization recently submitted an application to the FDA for a first-in-man Phase 1 Schwann cell transplantation clinical trial.

Sports legends, celebrities, philanthropic heroes and corporate leaders joined Nick Buoniconti and his son Marc for the sold-out celebration, which was presented by Phil Knight of Nike and featured a performance by singer Diana Ross and, for the fourth year in a row, sportscaster Bob Costas as the master of ceremonies.

“After 26 years of coming together with legendary figures to stand up for those who can’t, we are closer than ever to finding a cure for paralysis,” said the elder Buoniconti, who founded The Buoniconti Fund and The Miami Project after Marc was paralyzed in a college football game. “What started out as a promise to my son has been transformed into a promise from our family and researchers to the millions of people around the world affected by paralysis.”

The evening’s honorees included former Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, who received the 2011 Buoniconti Fund Award, and Jerry Rice, who was honored with the 2011 Humanitarian Award. The 2011 Great Sports Legends included Ernie Els, Chris Mullin, Andre Dawson, Harry Carson, Clark Gillies, John Force and Nancy Kerrigan.

Since its founding in 1985, the Great Sports Legends event has honored more than 275 sports legends and honorees and raised more than $65 million for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs.

UM President Donna E. Shalala was among the UM leaders who joined Miami Project co-founder Barth A. Green, M.D., professor and chair of neurological surgery, at the gala. Other notable guests included 10-time Olympic medalist and track and field legend Carl Lewis, long jump Olympic gold medalist Bob Beamon, hockey Hall of Famer and New York Rangers legend Rod Gilbert, former Miami Dolphins 17-0 quarterback Earl Morrall, New York Giants football great Brian Kelley, three-time world boxing champion Carlos Ortiz, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Janet Evans, and former Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl wide receiver Nat Moore.

In addition to Phil Knight of Nike, sponsors for the evening included Diageo, United Airlines, HBO Sports and Tiffany & Co.

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