Online Event Draws Global Audience,
Features PM Mitsotakis and Celebrity Performances/Remarks
NEW YORK CITY, November 14, 2020 — Greeks from around the world united in fervent support of Greece’s economic recovery and provided record-breaking donations for crisis relief at the first-ever Virtual Gala of The Hellenic Initiative (THI) on November 12, 2020.
“Philanthropy, from the Greek root philanthrōpia — in Greek, φιλανθρωπία — was on active and continuous display last night,” THI Board President George P. Stamas said, “when the Greek diaspora came together to raise $1.6 million, a remarkable sum given that our Gala was virtual.”
THI Board Chairman Andrew N. Liveris said, “This pandemic is going to be with us for a while, so doing a virtual gala is in our DNA. It is in our DNA to be part of the response mechanism and show resilience. It is what Hellenes are. All our ancestors and predecessors, all the people that are inhabiting the islands and the mainland of Greece today know that we do thrive and survive and make things happen in times of need. Stand tall THI, stand tall philhellenes, stand tall Hellenes. We will get through this and we will come out of it stronger than ever before.”
Despite the hurdles inherent in any virtual fundraiser, Greeks and philhellenes the world over tuned in not only to watch, but to take part by pledging funds to aid their mother country. Funds raised will provide pandemic relief and help Greek businesses and entrepreneurs who took a huge hit when travel restrictions devastated Greece’s all-important travel industry. Greek tourism, a sector normally recession- and disaster-proof, had just begun recovering from years of financial difficulty when tourism slowed.
Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kyriakos Mitsotakis, addressing the global audience, said, “For the last eight years, THI has been at the forefront of helping Hellenes in need and investing in a new Greece and in fantastic job creation programs, like ReGeneration and the Venture Impact Award. This gala is, of course, the largest fundraising event in the global Greek diaspora. But it also helps to build partnership and knowledge, sharing between two communities, separated by geography, but united by identity and history. That help has been invaluable — and unprecedented.”
THI Executive Director Peter Poulos noted that this year’s event proved challenging yet rewarding. “So many philhellenes and Greeks from around the world heeded the call for support and together we hit a real home run for investment in Greece. Thanks to robust board leadership and a dedicated staff, results exceeded our greatest expectations,” Poulos said. “The unseen benefit in going virtual was that it enabled people internationally to stream our event. Moreover, speakers and entertainers didn’t need to be on hand in New York City or London to participate.”
Titled “Radiate: The Hellenic Initiative Virtual Gala,” the event served as a vibrant call to action, illuminating innovation as well as the strength, and resiliency of Greece by sharing the emotional accounts of the challenges charities are facing on the ground as well as the success stories of startups across different economic sectors for which THI provides key support.
Co-hosted from Athens by popular Greek singer/actor Sakis Rouvas, who also performed, and from New York City by ABC News Chief Anchor & Political Correspondent and Greek American George Stephanopoulos, the event included performances and messages from well-known Greeks and Greeks from the diaspora, including Rita Wilson and Christos Mastoras who performed a duet, beloved Greek singer Nana Mouskouri, indie sensation Monika, singer/songwriter Marina Satti aka SATTI, and the Greek Youth Symphony Orchestra.
See quotes from participants below.
George Stephanopoulos, Chief Anchor and Political Correspondent, ABC News: “Covid 19 has stolen much from Greece, but it cannot take our pride, our heritage, our strength as a community, or our compassion. We ask all Greeks who are able, please show your love for Greece, help your fellow citizens in need with your generosity. We can keep our country healthy and together, we will make it strong again.”
Sakis Rouvas, entertainer: “We’re in the middle of our second lockdown and the streets of Athens are almost unrecognizable. But there is hope for a better tomorrow and that’s why we’ve assembled this evening to show you the rays of light with the work of The Hellenic Initiative.”
Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, THI Executive Committee Member: “The Battle of Thermopylae and the naval Battle of Salamis comprise two historic milestones in world history and the shaping of the Western civilization. We aim to pass down the history and the importance of these battles to the new generation throughout the world. Greece has always been a country where dialogue is predominant. I wish that our events may initiate such a democratic dialogue which, based on the past will contribute to a profound understanding of the present and to forging a brighter future for every nation in the world.”
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America: “Heavenly God, as we gather in spirit as well as in this virtual space, we ask your blessings upon this assembly of Hellenes and philhellenes, and especially upon the members of The Hellenic Initiative. Prosper their work in Greece and throughout the world as they bring the diaspora together and closer to our precious Hellas. Guide their programs and initiatives to benefit those most in need and lead us all to a brighter future.”
Nana Mouskouri, singer: “Many years ago, Maria Callas told me what you do in life is not so important; most important is why you do it and how you do it. It’s a philosophy shared by The Hellenic Initiative. They find organizations that work on the ground and with love and care, they try to help them grow to be even stronger so that they can be more effective helping disadvantaged citizens.”
Nia Vardalos, actress, screenwriter, director, producer: “The Greek Youth Orchestra wants to train more musicians and take orchestral music into parts of Greece that have never heard it before. We need music. We all grew up with music. Just dig deep into your pockets, find every euro you have — even drachmas — we’ll take anything. Let’s fund the Greek Youth Orchestra.”
Diane Kochilas, cookbook author, celebrity chef: “This year … more and more people will turn to the Athens Food Bank to secure their basic supplies, the things they need just to survive. If an individual or company can donate 50,000 euros to the Athens Food Bank, they would be helping to feed 17,000 people for an entire year. So please be generous. It would be nothing short of a modern-day miracle.”
Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the XPrize Foundation: “Since 2016, an organization called Enaleia has been Greece’s only professional fishing school. Fishing has become so much more than simply casting a net. Today it is about protecting the marine ecosystems and keeping healthy fish populations alive. With a donation of 25,000 euros, Enaleia can expand its outreach and clean up a port that’s been littered with old netting. They will recycle the old netting turning it into clothing and breathe life back into the port, all while making young Greeks into lifetime fishermen.”
THI organized both luxury and charitable auction items that, particularly this year, focused on giving to those in need. Charitable auction items included programs for hunger relief, health and social welfare support, and vocational training. As in prior years, Greek artists, food and wine purveyors, luxury destinations, and fashion and jewelry designers from around the world also came together to donate items.