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.”
Commenting on the event, the prominent journalist and member of the Greek American community George Stephanopoulos said “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.”
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 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.