News Release

Great Sports Legends Dinner Raises Nearly $18 Million to Cure Paralysis

Marc Buoniconti and Shaquille O’Neal at the 27th annual Great Sports Legends Dinner.

MIAMI, September 27, 2012 — The 27th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner, held Monday, September 24 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York, raised nearly $18 million for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, capping a milestone year. In July The Miami Project, a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, received FDA approval for a Phase I clinical trial of Schwann cell transplantation in acute spinal cord injury patients, the first and only such trial in the U.S.  

That accomplishment gave celebrities, philanthropists, and corporate leaders who attended the event plenty to celebrate. Nick Buoniconti and his son, Marc, greeted guests at the high-profile event, which pays tribute to philanthropic heroes and sports legends that inspire and motivate those affected by spinal cord injuries. NBC Sports icon Bob Costas returned as master of ceremonies for the sold-out dinner. 

“We are extremely honored to have so many legendary athletes, celebrities, corporate leaders and other influential figures on our side when it comes to raising awareness and funds to support finding a cure for paralysis,” said Nick Buoniconti, founder of The Buoniconti Fund. “Not only within the realm of sports do we see spinal cord injuries. Millions of people worldwide have suffered spinal cord injuries, leading to paralysis. Our biggest hope through The Buoniconti Fund and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is that soon we will make medical history by finding a cure for paralysis.”

The evening’s fundraising total will contribute to a $40 million pledge made by the Buoniconti Fund to the University of Miami’s Momentum2 campaign, which seeks to raise $1.6 billion by the year 2016.

The 2012 Great Sports Legends honored were Shaquille O’Neal, Joe Torre, Marshall Faulk, Tony Perez, Mark Martin, Lisa Leslie, Jake LaMotta, and Lorena Ochoa.

Great Sports Legend Dinner attendees and honorees included (left to right) Barth A. Green, Lisa Leslie, Jake, LaMotta, Mark Martin, Shaquille O’Neal, Joe Torre, Alonzo Mourning, Marc Buoniconti, Marshall Faulk, Nick Buoniconti, Tony Perez, Michael Murphy, and Lorena Ochoa.

NBA champion Alonzo Mourningwas presented with The Buoniconti Fund Award, and Grammy Award-winning musician and producer Emilio Estefanwas honored with The Outstanding Business Leader Award.

Held in the illustrious Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf=Astoria,the much-anticipated evening included cocktails, Tiffany & Co.’s Mystery Blue Box Wall, and a Buy It Now Store where guests could buy one-of-a-kind sports memorabilia, jewelry, spectacular getaways, a unique Kidz Korner, and other exclusive items.

The dinner program featured a performance by legendary musical group Earth, Wind & Fire. There was a live auction of travel and entertainment packages, sports and music memorabilia, and experiences including the opportunity to golf with golfing great Jack Nicklaus.

Since its inception in 1985, the Great Sports Legends Dinner has honored more than 283 sports legends and honorees and has raised more than $92 million for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs.

Marc Buoniconti and Shaquille O’Neal at the 27th annual Great Sports Legends Dinner.

Richard Cote
alex's place at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.