Mike Greenberg, of ESPN fame, will speak at Alliance Campaign launch

Be someone who makes a difference

Mike Greenberg, of ESPN, will speak in Providence / ESPNPROVIDENCE – Mike Greenberg, co-host of ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” will be the featured speaker at a community event sponsored by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

The Tuesday, Sept. 17 event, at 7:30 p.m. at the Providence Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence, is the Alliance’s official launch of the 2014 Annual Campaign. Neil and Randi-Beth Beranbaum and Alan and Marianne Litwin are co-chairs of “An Evening with Mike Greenberg.”

After his wife, Stacy Steponate Greenberg, lost one of her closest friends to breast cancer, Greenberg, aka “Greeny,” wrote “All You Could Ask For,” a novel that depicts the lives of three women, all diagnosed with breast cancer.

The novel’s characters, he said, are only loosely based on three women he knows. However. he added, these women  “don’t have cancer … but I wanted to create these voices, so I assigned an actual voice to each of these characters,” he explained.

In conjunction with the book’s April 2013 publication, Greenberg and his wife created a foundation called “Heidi’s Angels.” Who were Heidi’s Angels? Greenberg said that Heidi Armitage’s dear friends, Wendy Gardiner, Jane Green and Stacy, tirelessly supported Heidi through her valiant, yet ultimately unsuccessful, battle to beat the breast cancer that had spread to her bones.  Through the foundation, all the author’s proceeds from the sale of “All You Could Ask For” will be donated to The V Foundation for Cancer Research specifically to combat breast cancer.

“When Heidi died, I just felt like I had to do something … felt an obligation to do something,” said Greenberg. “I felt that way more when I was sitting at a memorial service [and] staring at the backs of her children, 9 and 6 …going to live the rest of their lives without their mom.”

Asked what “take-away message” the book and his foundation offer, Greenberg said, “Don’t expect other people to do [something] for you … you have to do something … yourself. Whether it’s getting involved in a hands-on way by volunteering or by donating – whatever the case may be – if you don’t, you may find yourself in a community where the federation isn’t all that vibrant.”

Heidi’s death inspired Greenberg to act. After considering, and then rejecting, the idea of running a marathon to raise money, he decided to write a book. He’d already written two nonfiction books, “Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad” (published by Villard, May 2007) and, with co-author Mike Golic and contributor Andrew Chaikivksy, “Mike and Mike’s Rules for Sports and Life” (published by ESPN in April 2010).

“I admired Heidi … someone needed to do something, and I was in a position to do something. Why wouldn’t I?” Greenberg said.

Although Greenberg describes himself as “fairly irreligious,” he credits mentors with instilling in him positive values. “If you can do good things in the world, why wouldn’t you?” he asked rhetorically.

Of mentor Dick Vitale, the legendary basketball coach and commentator, Greenberg said, “He’s so passionate about cancer research. I’ve seen his enormous passion and dedication. I was encouraged by him, but this [book initiative] really was more about Heidi.”

As for the focus of his comments at the Alliance’s event, Greenberg said that most of his presentation will be humorous. “I won’t be spending 40 minutes talking about cancer … [I’ll cover] sports, etc. and will talk a bit about Heidi, the feeling of gratitude.”

Just as he recognized he could – and should – “do something” about Heidi’s death from cancer, Greenberg encourages people to “do whatever they feel is important. Be that someone; wherever your passion lies, do it rather than wonder why someone else can’t do it.”