By Anthe Mitrakos
CHICAGO, IL – Over 650 Greek-Americans and their friends attended the National Hellenic Museum Gala at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, May 13. The event’s theme this year, “Stories of Our Journey,” celebrated Greek heritage and the history of the Greek-American experience.
Set under a dome of twinkling lights, the fundraiser was an evening of music, dancing and dining to benefit the various exhibits and activities at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago’s famous Greektown.
Greek-American Chicago sportscaster Lou Canellis, who served as the event’s master of ceremonies a second time, began the evening by commemorating his Greek roots.
“I went to the museum yesterday…I was pretty proud…reading and learning about the Greeks that came over from Ellis Island to Chicago…the restaurateurs, the laborers, laundrymen like my father…it was something special,” Canellis told TNH. “To be part of this is quite an honor.”
Also present at the event was Governor Bruce Rauner, who paid tribute to the contributions of Greek-Americans to culture and society.
“Members of our Greek community are leaders in every element, in every aspect of our wonderful community in Illinois… in business, in law, in medicine, in arts, in education and government,” Rauner said. “We are so blessed to have one of the largest, most vibrant, most dynamic Greek-American communities here in the great state of Illinois,” he added.
NHM Board Chairman John P. Calamos, Sr. and President Dr. Laura Calamos applauded the museum’s efforts to educate and inspire generations of Americans through the NHM’s exhibits and programs.
Dr. Calamos asked the audience what they remembered of their grandparents, and what they wished they had asked before they were gone. “At the National Hellenic Museum, we remember, and we help others remember,” she said. “Our mothers and fathers overcame so much. Adversity, discrimination, poverty. They fought in difficult wars on our behalf. They showed us by example how to get involved and how give back to the community. Museums are places where memories are collected.”
Aside from raising funds for the NHM, the 2017 gala honored two Greek-American stories. Those of the late Dr. Mary Dochios Kamberos, a NHM Life Trustee, and Mr. Konstantin Raptis, whose contribution was recently added to the Frank S. Kamberos Oral History Project at the Museum.
Dr. Dochios Kamberos’ nephew, Nick Vlachos, shared his aunt’s remarkable story as the daughter of a Greek immigrant homesteader in Idaho, who became a pioneering pediatrician eventually serving as the chief medical officer for Cook County Juvenile Detention Services. Following his speech, a video presentation showcased young students at the NHM School sharing Mr. Konstantin Raptis’ oral history, highlighting the value of lifelong learning for every generation.
The evening’s dinner was followed by a lively musical presentation featuringpopular Greek artists Elli Kokkinou and Christos Menidiatis. This year’s event also featured both silent and live auctions to further benefit the NHM.
“I think it’s important to keep the Greek-American community together. They had great speakers tonight and I think everything was perfect,” said gala guest Dimitris Kaoulas.