The 12th biennial Hellenic Charity Ball was held on Saturday, November 16 at the Westin Saint Francis on Union Square, San Francisco.
This year’s event was a resounding, sold-out success attracting a capacity black-tie guest list of five hundred Greek-Americans and Philhellenes from across the country.
The ball, which was hosted by the Elios Charitable Foundation, raised a record $530,000 (€479,000) in support of the Foundation’s mission to preserve and foster the values of Greek culture.
This year’s Ball honored four exemplary, award-winning Greek-Americans from the arts and entertainment industry. The honored guests included Broadway and Hollywood actor Dennis Boutsikaris; prolific novelist and award-winning screenwriter and producer George Pelecanos; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artist Constance Stamatiou; and renowned Disney and Dreamworks animation director Aliki Theofilopoulos.
Television and Broadway stars — and past honorees — Marilu Henner and Constantine Maroulis were the evening’s energetic hosts.
Some of the other notable attendees of the event were Ambassador and California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis and her husband Markos, Greek Consul-General Antonis Sgouropoulos and his wife Tamara, and Cyprus Consul-General Nicolaos Theophanous and his wife Sotira.
Past honoree and critically-acclaimed HBO producer Anne Thomopoulos was also on hand, along with award-winning veteran actor John Aniston, a longtime star in NBC’s daytime soap opera, “Days of Our Lives.”
The gala evening also reunited other distinguished artists and past honorees including former NYC Ballet prima ballerina Helene Alexopoulos; author and investigative journalist 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, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Gerasimos, assisted by Fr. John Bakas, made a special appearance and offered a soulful and ecumenical invocation for the evening.
Elios 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 stated.
He 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 types 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 the University of California at Berkeley, the Modern Greek Studies Program at San Francisco State University and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
It has also contributed to 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 throughout the years.