On Saturday, May 14, 2011, the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund (HTSF) Dinner Dance GALA took place at the luxurious Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City, with an impressive turnout. This marked the twentieth anniversary of the event. The HTSF was founded by Mr. Nick Katsoris; moreover, Mr. John Catsimatidis and his wife, Margo Catsimatidis, the co-publishers of the Hellenic Times newspaper, embraced Katsoris' idea and they have been running it together ever since.
An acclaimed author of the Loukoumi children's book series, Katsoris served in the capacity of Dinner Dance Chairperson. In this year's ceremony, forty-two outstanding Greek-American students were the recipients of the Hellenic Times scholarship. Its 2011 honored guests were Ernie Anastos, John Aniston, Alexis Christoforous, Michael Constantine, Frank Dicopoulos and Nick Gregory; moreover, the GALA featured vocal performances by international recording sensation Kalomira, Fame Story alum Thanos Petrelis, Harold Melvin's Bluenotes, and Kathy Sledge, the lead singer of Sister Sledge.
Earlier in the morning, the HTSF offered six thought-provoking workshops in the fields of health and medicine, business, dramatic and recording arts, law and real estate, law and politics, as well as journalism. These captivating workshops were well-received by the audience and featured many prominent members and dignitaries of the Greek-American community.
The Journalism Workshop consisted of Emmy-award winner Ernie Anastos (Fox 5 News anchor), Alexis Christoforous (CBS News anchor), as well as meteorologist Nick Gregory, in which they opened up about their experiences in the field over the years, and offered advice for aspiring journalists.
In the Dramatic and Recording Arts workshop, its five featured panelists, Mr. John Aniston (Days of Our Lives actor), Mr. Michael Constantine (star of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"), Mr. Frank Dicopoulos ("Guiding Light" actor), singing sensation Kalomira, and Kathy Sledge, concurred that for success to be obtained in this field, it is essential for aspiring singers and actors to take advantage of any opportunities that presents themselves, as well as to have a passion in what they are doing, and to be original and to stay true to themselves; that way, happiness can be attained in their lives.
In this year's HTSF GALA, Mr. John Catsimatidis, the Chairman and CEO of the Red Apple Group, presented Mr. Spiros Milonas, the founder and CEO of the Ionian Group, with the prestigious "Humanitarian Leadership Award," for his forty-five years of dedicated service in the global shipping community. Following the presentation of his award, Mr. Milonas garnered a standing ovation from the audience.
The HTSF presented its 2011 "Artistic Achievement Humanitarian Award" to Gilles Marini, a multi-talented actor who starred in the ABC drama series "Brothers and Sisters," opposite Sally Field, and was the runner-up winner of Season 8 of "Dancing with the Stars." An avid soccer player, he is a member of his neighborhood soccer team, as well as the Hollywood United Soccer Team.
Marini devotes his time and support to the Maximum Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization, in an effort to help raise funds for families with children that have life-limiting illnesses; in addition to his acting, philanthropic and athletic endeavors, Gilles is a loving husband to Carole Marini, and a father to his two children, Georges and Juliana.
Marini received his coveted Humanitarian award from Academy-Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis. In his acceptance speech, Marini noted that his father had taught him that "when you do something from the heart, you should not expect to get anything in return." Ever-humble, Gilles went on to thank John [Catsimatidis], his wife Margo, and Nick Katsoris for their countless hours of hard work devoted to making this event a reality. Lastly, Marini stressed the importance of education in one's life. Marini remarked, "only with education you can get knowledge and wisdom, otherwise it will be difficult to get respect from others."
"The Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund GALA was truly a remarkable event, and a night that will be forever engraved in my memory," remarked Kosta Demopoulos, who was the 2011 HTSF recipient of a $20,000 scholarship. "Not only was it an honor to be selected as a scholarship recipient, but to be given one of such magnitude was truly breathtaking. Each of the 1,400 people there were extremely friendly, and made the whole night even more enjoyable," he added.
Nicole Bonanni, who was present at the morning workshops and the HTSF GALA, stated: "I had a great time! Being in a room filled with my inspirations was a dream come true. Hearing the success stories of such TV anchors as Ernie Anastos, Nick Gregory and Alexis Christoforous helped motivate me, and encouraged me to stay positive and true to my very Greek self."
For more information on the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund (HTSF), please visit their official website: http://www.htsf.org.