Friday, July 24, 2009 | 8 a.m.
Longtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein wishes he could be a stranger to cancer. But the fact is he had already had several experiences with it even before his wife, Connie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003.
“It is life altering in a way that you can’t imagine until it happens," Bernstein said. "Unfortunately I’ve had it happen several times to both my parents and others close to me. I wish I was a newcomer to this but I’m not.”
But if there’s one thing Bernstein has learned through watching those closest to him battle the disease, it's that you have to get your own shots in when you can and savor the victories.
Al and Connie Bernstein's counter punch is The Caring Place, a 40,000-square-foot nonprofit center opened last year that offers free services to cancer patients.
"The one thing about The Caring Place is that it's not just that we're helping people," Al Bernstein said. "It gave us kind of one chance to at least put a positive spin on what has happened to us. We would certainly much rather have come to this without Connie being affected, but the fact that it made this place possible at least gives us something about this to hang our hat on."
Starting Friday, ESPN Radio 1100 will host its fourth annual "Longest Radio Show Ever" to benefit the organization. The 24-hour radio marathon invites national celebrities to make hour-long appearances on-air and take donations.
The relationship started when ESPN informed Al Bernstein, a former employee, the network wanted to do something special to honor his wife's ongoing fight with cancer. At the time, she had already been putting in groundwork to make The Caring Place a reality.
"The organization was founded separately, but this event was in our back pocket," Al Bernstein said. "Connie moved forward, the radio-athon was kind of there simultaneously, and it was a great benefit that got us off to a major start."
The UFC has been especially involved in this year's event, with Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Randy Couture among a long list of fighters attending. President Dana White will be honored as Sportsman of the Year for 2009. Former winners include Joe and Gavin Maloof, UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger and boxing promoter Bob Arum.
"I'm honored, it's very special for me," White said of receiving the award. "When me and the Fertittas got involved in the UFC, a lot of people were saying this isn't a sport. Now to be named Sportsman of the Year means a lot.
"I have a personal relationship with Al Bernstein. When I found out his wife started The Caring Place, a place to benefit people struck by cancer and it was in Las Vegas, it was a no-brainer that the UFC get involved."
The event has already raised $23,000 through an online auction that gave fans the opportunity to join the celebrities on-air. Fans can still purchase tickets for the cocktail reception party on Friday night from 7-9 p.m.
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].