The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis’ 38th Annual Sports Legends Dinner Honored Athletes, Celebrities and Donors
Armando Christian Perez (Pitbull) received the Buoniconti Fund Award in honor of his commitment to the cause, Gloria Estefan served as Mistress of Ceremonies and Ne-Yo gave a special performance.
More than 800 business, community, and civic leaders; humanitarians, celebrities, and philanthropists convened on October 16 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 by Nick Buoniconti, 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. Nick co-founded The Miami Project with world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Barth Green 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 U.S. 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
- Big East Conference commissioner, first WNBA president, and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Basketball Hall of Fame member Val Ackerman.
The Buoniconti Fund also honored Grammy Award-winning superstar Armando Christian Perez (Pitbull), who received the 2023 Buoniconti Fund Award, and 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 lineup 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, a “kidz korner,” 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.
About The Buoniconti Fund and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
Committed to finding a cure for paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury and to seeing millions worldwide walk again, the Buoniconti family established The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis in 1992. The Buoniconti Fund is a non-profit organization whose mission is to raise funds and awareness to help The Miami Project achieve its primary focus; to repair and restore function to the injured and diseased nervous system, thereby improving the quality of life to patients throughout the world.
The Miami Project, a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is considered one of the premier research programs conducting cutting-edge discovery, translational and clinical investigations targeting traumatic spinal cord and brain injury, and other neurological disorders. The Miami Project’s international team of more than 175 scientists, researchers, clinicians and support staff are dedicated to improving the quality of life and, ultimately, finding a cure for paralysis.
Miami Project researchers are currently conducting clinical studies and trials in spinal cord injury, including testing neuroprotective strategies, cellular therapies using Schwann cell and stem cell transplantation, and advanced rehabilitation and neuromodulation approaches, including the use of brain machine interface technologies.
Other areas of current research include drug discovery for axonal regeneration and immune modulation, neuropathic pain, male fertility and cardiovascular disorders.