37th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner

The dinner benefiting Buoniconti Fund was attended by nearly 1,000 guests and raised more than $3 million.

2022 Great Sports Legends and Honorees
Mark Dalton, Marc Buoniconti, Lindsey Vonn and Victoria Ranger Nunez

Demonstrating unparalleled courage and resilience in the face of enormous challenges and adversities, Mary Kate Callahan and Sarah Will have risen to the top of the Para-Athletic world and, in so doing, have become sterling inspirations for countless thousands of others with spinal cord injuries.  So it was only natural that they were among the sports icons honored by The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis’ 37th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner, presented by Tudor Group and the Reed Mack Family, in New York City on Monday, October 24th.

Dr. Barth Green, Lois Pope and Marc Buoniconti

The dinner, which was attended by nearly 1,000 guests and raised more than $3 million, also honored other sports icons dedicated to the cause, inducting them into the prestigious pantheon of nearly 400 previous Great Sports Legends: Lindsey Vonn, the greatest American female skier in history; NFL Hall of Famer Edgerrin James; Indy and NASCAR champion Tony Stewart; NBA Hall of Famer Tim Hardaway; MLB Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero; drag racing pioneer and champion Shirley Muldowney; the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only undefeated team in NFL history; and NFL Hall of Famer and organization founder, the late Nick Buoniconti. In addition, philanthropist Lois Pope, who’s multi-million gift endowed the Lois Pope LIFE Center, the home of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, was honored with the organization’s Outstanding Humanitarian Award.

The Buoniconti Fund is the fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world’s premier spinal cord injury research center.

Tim Hardaway, Lesley Visser and Edgerrin James
Dr. Henri Ford, John and Elaine Krupnick, Leonard Miller, Suzie Sayfie, Victoria Ranger Nunez, Dr. Dalton Dietrich, Dr. Helen Bramlett, Josh Friedman and Ron Book
Marc Buoniconti, Lesley Visser and Edgerrin James
Marc Buoniconti, Lesley Visser and Edgerrin James

As in previous years, Marc Buoniconti delivered an inspiring speech honoring his father, who co-founded The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis in 1985 after Marc was paralyzed in a college football game. Before his death in 2019, Nick spent more than three decades dedicated to finding a cure for people affected by spinal cord injury, including his son and millions of others around the world.

“Each year, I find myself more and more inspired by the amazing athletes and individuals who are honored at this Great Sports Legends Dinner,” said Marc Buoniconti, Buoniconti Fund President. “The evening was filled with emotions and I know my dad’s spirit was in the room with us as we paid tribute to these great individuals, all of whom were able to come together on this one night to help cure paralysis.”

Lauren, Reed, Lynn and John Mack
Marc Buoniconti flanked by The Buoniconti Fund Board of Directors

Since its inception in 1985, the Great Sports Legends Dinner has honored nearly 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 dinner was presented by Tudor Group and the Reed Mack Family and chaired by Mark Dalton. Additional benefactors included: Reed Mack, Carnival Corporation & plc, Carnival Foundation, Micky and Madeleine Arison, Pepe Badia and Badia Spices, Inc.

“Sports Legends Alumni” include Muhammad AliWillie MaysEarvin “Magic” Johnson, Tony Hawk, Cal Ripken, Jr., Gloria Estefan, Jack Nicklaus, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Rodriguez, Ray Allen, George Foreman, Julio Iglesias, Helio Castroneves, Troy Aikman, Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti, Joe Namath, Pedro Martinez, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dan Marino, Mike Piazza, Pat Riley, Grant Hill, Bill Cowher, Kelly Slater, Joe Torre, Venus Williams, Michael Jordan, Simone Biles, Abby Wambach, and many other athletes and heroes – all of whom recognize that paralyzing injuries can and do occur in the pursuit of athletic careers and everyday lives.

Nick Arison and Jenna Green
Nick Arison and Jenna Green
Sarah Will, Lindsey Vonn, Edgerrin James, Mary Kate Callahan
Sarah Will, Lindsey Vonn, Edgerrin James, Mary Kate Callahan

The 2022 Great Sports Legends and Honoree Class

Edgerrin James is a member of the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, a member of the NFL’s All-2000s Decade Team, and the greatest running back in Indianapolis Colts history.

Tony Stewart, nicknamed “Smoke,” is a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, an IndyCup Series champion, and an International Race of Champions title-holder.

Lindsey Vonn is a four-time World Cup skiing champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and the women’s record-holder for the most World Cup skiing victories.

Tim Hardaway is a newly inducted Hall of Famer, a five-time All-NBA Team member and an Olympic Gold Medalist.

Vladimir Guerrero, nicknamed “Vlad the Impaler,” is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, a nine-time All-Star, and a former Most Valuable Player

Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney is the “First Lady of Drag Racing,” having been the first female to receive a license from the U.S. Hot Rod Association to drive a Top Fuel dragster, and the first person, male or female, to win three Top Fuel titles. 

Sarah Will is the most decorated athlete in U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing history, with 13 Winter Paralympics medals, and a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins are simply the only football team in history to have a perfect season, going undefeated in the regular season, then sweeping the playoffs before going on to win the Super Bowl.

Nick Buoniconti was a NFL Pro Hall of Famer who was the middle linebacker and captain of that legendary undefeated team, a two-time Super Bowl champion, and the founder of The Buoniconti Fund and its parent organization, The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Mary Kate Callahan, a National Paratriathlon Champion, four-time Paratriathlon American Championship medalist, and two-time World Paratriathlon medalist, received The Buoniconti Fund’s 2022 Inspiration Award.

Philanthropist Lois Pope, the nation’s foremost supporter of disabled veterans who made a $10 million gift more than 20 years ago to endow the Lois Pope LIFE Center as the home for The Miami Project, received The Buoniconti Fund Humanitarian Award.

Marc Buoniconti and Mary Kate Callahan
Terry and Marc Buoniconti
Terry and Marc Buoniconti
Dr. Julio Frenk and Lesley Visser
Marc Buoniconti and Lesley Visser
Romero Britto
Romero Britto
Blake and Samatha Doleman with Tim Hardaway
Gina Buoniconti and Nick Buoniconti, III
Scott DeNight and Abraham DeNight
Scott DeNight and Abraham DeNight

About The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and The Buoniconti Fund

In 1985, Barth A. Green, M.D., world-renowned neurosurgeon, and Nick Buoniconti, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker, joined forces and founded The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis after Nick’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. Since then, research at The Miami Project has changed the landscape of knowledge and therapeutic strategies for spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury.

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 now 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 over 175 scientists, researchers, clinicians and support staff is 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.

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