NEW YORK – The 22nd Annual Hellenic Times Scholarship Gala packed the ballroom of Manhattan’s Marriot Marquis hotel, pumped everyone with ‘kefi’ and filled the guests with pride in the achievements and bright prospects of the record 36 scholarship recipients.
The “party of the year” for the community in the New York Metropolitan area is the brainchild of John and Margo Catsimatidis and Nick Katsoris, and it has made possible the distribution of more than $2 million to more than 850 scholarship recipients through the years.
HTSF continues its recent tradition of also providing scholarships to students at the community’s day schools, which were presented via video by actress Nia Vardalos. The recipients included Eleni Maria Papastefanou of the Greek American Institute, whose voice with its lovely lilt delighted all when she sang the Greek national anthem. Nicole Zoulas of the Church of the Holy Trinity of New Rochelle, who was also awarded a scholarship, followed with a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Fr. Mark Arey, Director of the Office of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Archdiocese, in a moving invocation, thanked God “for this time of fellowship, this gathering of love and faith, and dedication to learning,” and prayed for blessings and prosperity as the recipients move forward ion life. He also conveyed the love and good wishes of Archbishop Demetrios of America.
Fr. Arey expressed the feelings of all the guests in calling upon God to bless all who toil for the HTSF, especially to Margo and John Catsimatidis, whom he called “A great example through his aspiration for public service, something which inspires all of us.” Catsimatidis is a candidate for New York Mayor this year.
Catsimatidis, however, when he introduced the evening’s honoree, energy efficiency and energy management pioneer George Sakelaris, who receive the Humanitarian Award, declared “tonight is not my evening.” He said “I have always believed in education,” and went on to praise and thank all the big contributors and people who helped put the event together.
Katsoris moved the program forward with wit and warmth as the MC ant the ebullient Margo Catsimatidis declared, “It is always special to be on this stage,” to present the scholarships – this year’s 36 was a record – and acknowledged the presence of family and friends who travelled from Florida. She too thanked all who helped, and expressed her gratitude to all the donors, but she singled out Dennis Droushiotis. “What can I say? You always come through for us, year after year,” donating the wine for the events and thus increasing the pool of money for scholarship.”
The other recipients from the day schools were Dean Dakis and Tiffany Grapsas from William Spyropoulos, and Achilleas Ecos from the Cathedral School. The college winners included:
Christopher Abanas, Stefano Ajazi, Alexandra Cherouvis, Erini Christodoulou, Alyssa DeLucci, Jaden Dicopoulos, Eleni Florakis, Nicholas Gianaris, Tiffany Grapsas, Christina Guliadis, Alexandra Hristodoulou, Dimos Karidas, Daphne Karidas, Nikolaos Kotoulas, Elizabeth Lefer, Diana Mikelis, Nikolas Parisis, Markella Roros, Ryan Spiess, Aristotle Tinios, Alina Tsouristakis, Nicholas Tzallas, and Anjelika Vayas.
Once again the event began with video greetings from the community’s media stars including Ernie Anastos, Alexis Christoforous, Nick Gregory, Mike Emanuel, and Bob Costas. The night began with the anthem Only in America, which is the soundtrack for the inspiring stories of the realization of the American dream for countless Greek immigrants but also for the even brighter future of the community’s youth.
Alpha Orchestra fired up the guests with Greek and American hits and the concert that closed the evening, which was introduced by Nick Gregory, featured the irrepressible JT Taylor, of Kool and the Gang fame, and singers from Greece Katerina Tropazi and Thanos Tsiovas.
The dignitaries included the Consul General of Greece George Iliopoulos and his wife Anthousa, Congressman Gus Bilirakis and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the chairs of the Hellenic Caucus on Capitol Hill, broadcasters Nicole Petallides, and Rita Cosby and Curtis Sliwa, who come every year.
Andrea Catsimatidis, who attended with her brother John Jr., and her husband Chris Cox were excited about what everyone called a great party, but she noted it is a “great party that raises a lot of money for kids that need it. The night is all about education, which is very important for my dad.”
Catsimatidis told TNH: “We are here to inspire the youth so they can their dreams. The honorees we usually have are people they can look up to, with their achievements. It’s not only about raising money for scholarship but molding them to believe that they can go all the way.”