Published April 10. 2013 4:00AM
Mohegan - The Connecticut Sports Foundation's annual Celebrity Dinner and Memorabilia Auction is traditionally baseball-themed, held just before the start of spring training.
This year, a historic snowstorm which crippled the area coincided with the Sports Foundation's date, causing the dinner to be canceled.
The solution? The foundation changed themes.
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, formerly the coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, UConn football coach Paul Pasqualoni and former UConn All-American and ESPN women's basketball analyst Rebecca Lobo will now headline the 26th annual event, May 31, at the Mohegan Sun Convention Center.
ESPN's Steve Levy will serve as emcee, with more celebrities to be announced.
The foundation, which raises more than a half a million dollars annually from the dinner, was created in 1987 by New London native John Ellis, a former major league baseball player with the Yankees, Indians and Rangers.
Ellis lost a sister, brother and sister-in-law to cancer and is a survivor of Hodgkin's disease. His wife, Jane Ellis, serves as the president and executive director of the foundation, which generates money to financially assist cancer patients and their families and to fund cancer research.
The first dinner featured New York Yankee legends Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin.
"Launching the foundation with them, that was setting a standard. It linked us to greatness," said John Ellis at last year's 25th anniversary celebration. "... I really think we're going to be the greatest foundation that ever existed in Connecticut."