(October 16, 2023) – More than 800 business, community, and civic leaders, humanitarians, celebrities, and philanthropists convened tonight for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis’ 38th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to celebrate some of the most accomplished Hall of Fame and World Champion athletes in their respective sports.
But more importantly, they came to reaffirm their stalwart commitment to finding a cure for paralysis. Indeed, they raised several million dollars for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a Center for Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the world’s premier center for research and treatment of spinal cord injury and other neurological diseases and disorders.
The Buoniconti Fund, the fundraising arm of The Miami Project, was founded 38 years ago by NFL Hall of Fame linebacker and captain of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, still the only team in NFL history to go undefeated in a season. He founded the organization to find a cure for his son Marc, who was paralyzed in a collegiate football game. Over the past 38 years, the Fund has honored more than 400 sports legends and humanitarians and has raised more than $130 million for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs.
This year’s honorees were: New York Giants and NFL Hall of Famer and TV personality Michael Strahan; five-time Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Missy Franklin, Boston Bruins Stanley Cup champion Zdeno Chara; five-time All-Star and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Thome; two-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Famer Larry Little; longtime US Men’s National Team goalkeeper and United Soccer League Champion Tim Howard, U.S. Open Champion, FedEx Cup Champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year golfer Jim Furyk and Big East Conference Commissioner, first WNBA President, and member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame Val Ackerman.
The Buoniconti Fund also honored Grammy Award winning superstar Armando Christian Perez (Pitbull), who received the 2023 Buoniconti Fund Award. And the event featured a live performance by three-time Grammy Award winner Ne-Yo.
Music icon, philanthropist, eight-time Grammy Award Winner and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Gloria Estefan, whose connection to The Buoniconti Fund dates back more than three decades when she suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a tour bus accident, was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event.
“This year’s Great Sports Legends Dinner was a spectacular line-up of sports champions and honorees,” said Marc Buoniconti, Buoniconti Fund President. “I am incredibly thankful to all our honorees, performers, and guests. Tonight’s contributions will allow The Miami Project to continue its pioneering paralysis and neurological disease research with the goal of finding a cure.”
In fact, he explained that “I am so proud and honored to announce tonight that the state of research at The Miami Project has never been more promising. Following in the legendary footsteps of my father, and through the vision of Dr. Barth Green (co-founder of the Miami Project), I have continued to promise to do everything in my power to find a cure for paralysis and other neurological diseases and disorders. I am here to tell you that we have made some of the greatest discoveries in the history of neuroscience.”
The high-profile dinner, presented by The Tudor Group and The Mack family, annually attracts a veritable “Who’s Who” of sports legends, celebrities, philanthropists, corporate leaders and influential notables from New York and Miami.
Chaired by Mark Dalton, the Great Sports Legends Dinner benefits The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The Miami Project, a designated Center of Excellence at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, is the world’s premier spinal cord injury research center targeting traumatic spinal cord and brain injury and other neurological disorders and diseases. The event also featured a spectacular silent auction, which included one-of-a-kind autographed sports memorabilia, travel and experiences, electronics, autographed memorabilia, kidz korner, magnificent jewelry, and much more.
The 38th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner was held in memory of longtime Buoniconti Fund Board Member, generous philanthropist and devoted supporter of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Paul J. DiMare. Additional sponsors included the Legends Reception Sponsor Badia Spices and Supporting Event Sponsor, Thomas E. Smith Foundation.