CHICAGO – Over 500 Greek-Americans and friends gathered in support of Hellenic culture at the annual National Hellenic Museum (NHM) Gala. Held at the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile on May 12th, the evening celebrated the many diverse threads of the Hellenic experience, alluding to the rich tapestry of Hellenism with the theme “Connecting Generations.” The event helped raise over $800,000 for the museum’s various cultural programs.
Master of Ceremonies, WGN-TV Emmy Award-winning entertainment reporter, Dean Richards, opened the night thanking mothers in the room, recalling the important contributions of his own mother and grandmother in his upbringing.
A dinner and a live auction followed words by His Eminence Metropolitan Nathaniel of Chicago and NHM President Dr. Laura Calamos.
“We have had a turnout that comes out from all over the country. This community has been coming a supporting us for so long and so we just feel this great generosity has made a big difference for us,” Dr. Calamos said.
Recipients of the inaugural Alec K. and Viena P. Gianaras Philanthropy Award recognizing donors demonstrating commitment to the NHM and philanthropy, were the Gianaras family and Frank S. Kamberos.
“It is all about vision. It’s an honor to have my parents honored,” said Alex A. Gianaras, President of Transformer Manufacturers, Inc.
“We want to acknowledge people who have given in a meaningful way over a long period of time, with steadfast commitment to recognize the vision of something before it’s even become,” Dr. Calamos said. “Alex Gianaras really exemplifies that, and having him here to accept the award on behalf of his family means the world to us,” she added.
Professional charity benefit fundraising auctioneer David A. Goodman kept the crowd on their feet in a lively auction featuring tropical getaways, a penguin tour, and a chance to walk the red carpet at the Emmy Awards, among other attractions that sold for up to $20,000. Cubs legend and National League All-Star, Ryan Dempster, wowed the crowd by offering signed jerseys to bidders.
“This truly is one of several events that has a great turnout every year…they raise a ton of money,” said Mike Manatos, president at Manatos and Manatos. “My only hope is that more and more people in the community see this not only as Chicago’s Hellenic museum, but as the National Hellenic Museum. As amazing as it is already, the potential is that much greater,” he said.
The evening continued with a pleasant mix of lively jazz and Greek music provided by the Chris Sarlas Orchestra featuring performers George Dimas and Voula Karahaliou, as well as The Levendes, featuring Nikos Koutras.
The gala’s $350 ticket helped raise philanthropic support to benefit the museum’s exhibits, classes, field trips, tours, programs, and the thousands of adults, students and children who visit every year. In 2017, 83 cents of every dollar raised was spent on programming, according to the museum, which preserves the largest collection of artifacts and oral histories dedicated to the Greek American story.
“We are very successful in that we make sure we preserve Hellenic history,” said NHM Board of Trustees Chairman and Founder of Calamos Investments John P. Calamos Sr. “We really appreciate the community coming in to the event, not only from Chicago but from all over the country…to show them what we are doing here at the museum with the oral history project and artifacts,” he added.
New to the NHM in 2018 is the exhibition CHANGE: The Story of Coins. Having debuted in March, this interactive display depicts how coins constitute important financial, cultural and political tools, featuring 29 coins dating from the Hellenistic period to the early Roman period (336 BCE – 55 CE).
The museum’s newest exhibition, Lives Afloat: The Greek Refugee Crisis Through the Lens of Tasos Markou 2015-2017, will open June 21. The photographic exhibition documents the realities facing refugees as they arrived in Greece, following a pouring of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children as Greeks themselves face a crippling financial crisis.
Founded in 1983 as the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, the National Hellenic Museum opened in its current four-story location on Halsted Street in Chicago’s famous Greektown in 2011.