SAN FRANCISCO – The 12th biennial Hellenic Charity Ball was held on Nov. 16 at the Westin Saint Francis on Union Square in San Francisco. A sold-out success, the event attracted a capacity black tie guest list of 500 Greek Americans and Philhellenes from across the country. Presented by the Elios Charitable Foundation, a record $530,000 was raised in support of the Foundation’s mission to preserve and foster the values of Hellenic culture.
This year’s Ball honored four exemplary and award-winning Greek Americans from the arts and entertainment industry: Broadway and Hollywood (The Bourne Legacy) actor Dennis Boutsikaris; prolific novelist and award-winning screenwriter/producer (“The Wire” and “Treme”) George Pelecanos; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artist Constance Stamatiou; and renowned Disney and Dreamworks film and television animation director and creator, Aliki Theofilopoulos. Television and Broadway stars, and past honorees, Marilu Henner and Constantine Maroulis were the evening’s energetic hosts.
Notable guests at the VIP cocktail reception and awards dinner included current and former mayors of San Francisco, the Honorable London Breed, Willie Brown (with Sonya Molodetskaya) and Art Agnos and wife Sherry; Ambassador and California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis and husband Markos Kounalakis; Greek Consul-General Antonis Sgouropoulos and wife Tamara; Cyprus Consul-General Nicolaos Theophanous and wife Sotira; and Bay Area sponsors George and Judy Marcus, Guy and Maria Steffens, Gerry and Jeannie Ranglas, Gary and Tina Vrionis, Kenneth and Angie Frangadakis, John and Janice Gumas, Anthony and Betty Saris, Byron and Stephanie Scordelis.
Past honoree and critically acclaimed HBO producer Anne Thomopoulos was on hand along with award-winning veteran actor John Aniston, who at age 86, is still starring in NBC’s Days of Our Lives. The gala evening also reunited other distinguished artists and past honorees including former New York City Ballet prima ballerina Helene Alexopoulos; author Nicholas Gage; visual artist Euripides “Rip” Kastaris; composer, producer and Pablo Cruise band member, Cory Lerios; and celebrated rock ‘n’ roll and sports photographer, Michael Zagaris.
His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, assisted by Fr. John Bakas, made a special appearance and offered the invocation.
Elios Charitable Foundation President and Chair John Gumas commented, “The idea of the Elios Charitable Foundation was the brainchild of George Marcus over 24 years ago, who wanted to create an opportunity for distinguished Greek Americans to get together to promote the idea of Hellenism and notable achievements of Greek culture with a focus on the youth. The formation of the Bay Area’s Elios Foundation led to the establishment of the National Hellenic Society furthering the Greek idea of philotimo, the idea of giving back, caring, sharing and doing the right thing. Philotimo is embedded in the DNA of all Greeks and tonight’s Charity Ball gives expression to this ancient idea.”
Gumas added, “I’m proud we can celebrate our distinguished honorees and at the same time raise financial support and awareness of our Hellenic beneficiaries. It is the support of these type of programs that truly inform our path forward as proud Greek Americans and Philhellenes.”
Since 1997, the year of the first Hellenic Charity Ball, the Foundation has distributed over $1.5 million to deserving non-profit/educational beneficiaries including archaeological research projects at University of California at Berkeley, the Modern Greek Studies Program at San Francisco State University and Loyola Marymount University in LA, the Heritage Greece Program, the annual San Francisco and Los Angeles Greek Film Festivals, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Kairos Youth Choir (who also welcomed guests in song as they arrived), and many other programs of distinction.
The Ball began with a high energy cocktail reception and a popular social media photo station offset by a wall of lush verdant grasses and white flowers. Following a three-course dinner and awards ceremony for each of the honorees, the traditional Greek music sounds of Mediterranean Soul and guest vocalist, Evgenia, filled the ballroom. The joyful music inspired many in the audience to take to the dance floor and participate in the traditional syrtos.
The evening seemed to be best summed-up during the Elios Award presentation from honoree George Pelecanos, earning him an enthusiastic standing ovation: “The thought I want to leave with you tonight is to remember who we are and where we came from. That we are sitting in this room, prosperous and assimilated, because we were given the opportunity to do so, and we grabbed that opportunity and got where we are today because we worked hard and earned it. My message isn’t political. It’s inclusion over obstruction. It’s about humanity, tolerance, and empathy over negativity and hate. We’re Greek Americans. We’ve been a vital part of this young country’s growth, this great experiment, because we were given a chance. Let us not forget.”
For more information about the 2019 Hellenic Charity Ball, visit www.elios.org.