WASHINGTON (August 5, 2016) -- The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the leading membership-based association for the nation's millions American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, hosted its 94th Grand Banquet, the pinnacle event of the annual Supreme Convention, July 28, at The Mirage Hotel and Resort, Las Vegas, Nev. The Grand Banquet serves to honor excellence in the community as well as dedication from within the AHEPA family of organizations.
This year, the principal honoree for the 94th AHEPA Grand Banquet was Mr. Basile Katsikis, comedian, entertainer, and voice talent; who received the 2016 AHEPA Academy of Achievement Award in the Arts. Past Supreme President Ike Gulas and then Supreme President John Galanis presented him with the award, thanking "Basile the Comedian" for bring communities together through comedy and laughter and for his charitable giving. Among the many charitable causes Basile has raised funds for is AHEPA's Cooley's Anemia Foundation, which is chaired by Gulas.
"Mr. Katsikis is a dedicated Hellene and Ahepan who shares AHEPA's commitment to all facets of its mission, most notably, philanthropy," Galanis said. "From his professional achievements to his charitable work in the community, AHEPA is thrilled to present him with this well-deserved honor. We are proud to count Mr. Katsikis as an Ahepan because he truly fulfills the organization's mission on a daily basis."
The audience also received inspirational words from His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, who spoke fondly of AHEPA's work in the community for 94 years. His
Eminence appealed for the AHEPA family to use this convention as a launching pad to propel the organization into its 94th year and beyond "to inspire the next generation of Greek Americans and philhellenes."
In addition, AHEPA family leaders offered farewell remarks, including: Supreme President Galanis, Daughters of Penelope Grand President Connie Pilallis, Sons of Pericles Supreme President Andreas Christou, and Maids of Athena Grand President Deanna Socaris. Jimmy Kokotas served as the banquet program's Master of Ceremonies.
In his final remarks as supreme president, Galanis conveyed how humbling of an experience it has been, as the son of Greek immigrants, to represent the Order before global political and religious leaders, community leaders, and to AHEPA's rank-and-file membership, which he described as "the backbone of the Order."
"I wish everyone here could have walked in my shoes this year," he said.
The supreme president also reaffirmed AHEPA's steadfast commitment to community service and charitable giving.
"AHEPA's philanthropic arms are wide and far-reaching," Galanis said.
Two Ahepans Receive National Recognition
Past Supreme President James S. Scofield received the AHEPA Lifetime Achievement Award. In his remarks, Metropolitan Gerasimos called Scofield "a legend." Scofield is perhaps best known for authoring the historical piece, "Forgotten History: The Klan vs. Americans of Hellenic Heritage in an Era of Hate." Scofield wrote it on the occasion of AHEPA's 75th anniversary, and then U.S. Senator Paul S. Sarbanes entered it into the Congressional Record. Scofield served as supreme president in 1991 when AHEPA received special recognition from the U.S. Department of Interior for raising more than $600,000 for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Past Supreme Governor and Past Supreme President of the Sons of Pericles Sandy Papadopoulos received the 2016 Ahepan of the Year Award. Papadopoulos, active in AHEPA's athletics program, spearheaded a Pan-Pontian Youth Cultural and Folkloric Festival which culminated with a Pontian Youth Flash Mob at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park that encircled AHEPA's "Tribute to Olympism" sculpture and received recognition from Hellenic news and blog sites.
Grants, Donations Announced, Including to IOCC, Saint Nicholas
During the program, representatives from AHEPA family entities announced donations and grants to various charitable programs and causes.
AHEPA family districts and chapters, in addition to AHEPA's affiliated organization presented tens of thousands of dollars to AHEPA's capital campaign drive to help rebuild Saint Nicholas National Shrine at World Trade Center. In addition, AHEPA premiered a video appeal for its capital campaign fund drive to help rebuild Saint Nicholas National Shrine at World Trade Center.
Supreme President Galanis presented a $10,000 to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to support IOCC's worthy mission to provide humanitarian aid and emergency relief around the world. Louis Zagami, development officer, IOCC, accepted the donation. During the past four years, IOCC and AHEPA have teamed-up to deliver more than $6 million in public health and medical equipment assistance to nine hospitals in Greece.
Angelo Kostarides, president, AHEPA National Housing Program, announced its grant program will award $300,000 to charitable programs.
To begin the evening's program, Maya Neal performed the national anthems. The audience also received a video-taped greeting from U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), who was unable to be present because of her attendance at the Democratic National Convention.
A special performance by "The Rat Pack" entertained banquet guests, who also enthusiastically were invited to attend the 2017 Supreme Convention at Walt Disney World® - Yacht and Beach Club in Orlando by a Fustanella- donning Mickey Mouse and Disney Destinations representative Dessie Dulakis.