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The Niki Sideris 28th Annual Walk-a-Thon & Spring Festival, organized by the Greek Division of Ronald McDonald House New York, was held on May 13. (Photo by Eleni Sakellis)
NEW YORK – Cloudy skies did not dampen the spirits of the participants in the Niki Sideris 28th Annual Walk-a-Thon & Spring Festival on May 13 presented by the Greek Division of Ronald McDonald House New York (RMHNY) which was founded by Niki Sideris of blessed memory and helps support children and families battling pediatric cancer. The Greek Community has been a vital lifeline to families from Greece and Cyprus, as well as Greek-Americans and children from across the globe and all 50 states traveling to New York City for critical medical treatments. The Niki Sideris Annual Walk-a-Thon raises funds and awareness for those brave children battling cancer. The family-friendly event is a celebration of philanthropy and Greek heritage.
RMHNY Greek Division Vice Chair Vasiliki Rentas-Sakkas gave the welcoming remarks at the event and introduced Fr. Chrysostomos Gilbert, Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan, who led the opening prayer. Greek Division Chairman Spiros Maliagros, President of TIG Advisors, said: “Thank you to each and every one of you, thank you for volunteering… we really appreciate your support.”
Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou participated in the event with his wife Myrsini and their young children. He congratulated the organizers for their efforts and recalled his first visit to RMHNY and how moved he was by the experience and “the outstanding job you have been doing all these years and on behalf of the Greek state I want to congratulate Spiros, Spiridoula [Katechis, Greek Division Coordinator and Administrator], AHEPA, and the whole administration for the fantastic job you’re doing.”
The event is also being held virtually through May 20 for those who could not attend in person. Maria and Taso Pardalis along with their children, Konstantinos, Andriana, and Chloe. Andriana sang the Greek National Anthem at the event after another youngster, Kyriaki, sang the Star-Spangled Banner.
RMNHY Chief Development Officer Richard H. Martin offered an update on the organization’s efforts noting that the Greek Division was founded by strong Greek women, Niki Sideris and RMHNY’s then-president Vivian Harris, and a strong woman is central to the Greek family which ties in directly with RMHNY’s efforts to help family members stay close to their children during their medical treatments. “There are some 380 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world and it only happens because the community is there to be able to support them whether it’s here, in Europe, Asia, Africa or South America,” Martin said.
He also mentioned one of the most recent special projects in New York City, a respite center in Elmhurst, Queens, which opened down the hall from the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] where parents signed a guest book noting some of the moving messages written: “Day 22 at the hospital, not sure what I could have done without this cup of coffee from the family room every single day and a place to be able to go back to and cry because we didn’t know it was going to get any better.”
“That’s what we’re doing here, if you’ve had a sick member of your family, you know what it takes to get them better, imagine trying to do that far from home, that’s what this place does,” Martin said and then thanked all those who have supported the Greek Division over the years, Maliagros, and especially Spiridoula Katechis.
The Gus Cherevas Estia-Pindus AHEPA Chapter 326 President Nick Voulkoudis and AHEPA District 6 Governor Dean Moskos joined 2023 Walk and Spring Festival Chairman Harry Yanakis, President of the contracting firm Majestic GC Corp., for the presentation to the RMHNY Greek Division of a $15,000 donation. Yanakis spoke about the history of AHEPA, noting that it was founded in response to the discrimination faced by the Greek immigrants to the United States in the early years of the 20th century. He also pointed out the importance of giving back, and how the first AHEPA chapter was founded in Atlanta, GA, in 1922 while his chapter, the Gus Cherevas Estia-Pindus AHEPA Chapter 326 was founded in 1939. Yanakis commended the dedicated staff and Board members of RMHNY including President and CEO Dr. Ruth C. Brown, Martin, and Katechis.
He noted that AHEPA has raised $40,000 for RMHNY and then presented the $15,000 check while thanking everyone for participating, including the members of the St. Nicholas community of Flushing, NY.
After the walk, participants enjoyed souvlaki on the stick, hot dogs, and ice cream sandwiches as the Loupakis School of Champions demonstrated gymnastics with instructor Costas Loupakis and dancers in traditional costume from the following dance groups performed – the Kalymnos Society dance troupe, the Greek-American Folklore Society, and the St. Demetrios High School of Astoria dance troupe.
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