Hundreds of friends of the ELPIDA Association, people who believed in its vision and have helped in the struggle for a better world, were present at the anniversary event to celebrate 20 years of operation for the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, which took place on 16 October 2013 in the “Christos Lambrakis Hall” at the MEGARON Athens Concert Hall, in the presence of the HE President of the Hellenic Republic Dr Karolos Papoulias.
The anniversary event to celebrate 20 years of operation of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, which was established by the ELPIDA Association of Friends of Children with Cancer in 1993 at the Agia Sofia Children’s Hospital, took place on 16 October 2013 in the “Christos Lambrakis Hall” at the MEGARON Athens Concert Hall, in the presence of HE the President of the Hellenic Republic Dr Karolos Papoulias.
Hundreds of friends of the Association, people who believed in its vision and have helped in the struggle for a better world, were present at the event. Many leading international figures, scientists, artists, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors, heads of international organisations and others also attended the event, all of whom share ELPIDA’s ideals of solidarity, peace, humanism and culture, and have become bearers of ELPIDA’s message beyond the borders of Greece. Other attendees to the event included the children life champions who have defeated cancer, who are excelling in their field and are shining examples of strength and optimism as well as their parents, who stood by them with courage and faith in the future.
It was a celebration of the gift of life that has been given to 670 children during the 20 years of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit’s operation; a tribute to the children and their families who bravely fought cancer and to all those people, in Greece and abroad, who have contributed to making ELPIDAs work a reality:
- The creation of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit
- The creation of the ELPIDA Guest House
- The creation of the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis-ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital
- The affiliation of the Oncology Hospital with hospitals of international scientific renown
The event was opened by the President of the ELPIDA Association, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis: “This is a very special moment for us all. Because tonight all of ELPIDA is here. The real ELPIDA. All those who have contributed and worked towards making the dream a reality. The State is here, in the form of its highest representative, having supported our work from the outset. The children are here. These children are the ones who taught us the meaning of courage. And their parents, who are the embodiment of hope since for them every moment was full of hope that their child would get well. Also here are all those who showed us the path to true love for our fellow humans, who showed what it means to give something of yourself in order to save someone else. The scientists and nursing staff who achieved the miracle of a second life, a second chance, are here. The people who believed in us, who supported us, who made our message louder and our battle stronger are here. The people who knew how to bring an entire nation together by our side, and who did so, are here. The people who built something that everyone says is unique with their knowledge are here as well as the real workers on this project who saw it grow and come alive in their hands. But also here tonight are those people who shared our vision from outside Greece, true allies in our battle for a better world. A world that will protect children and support the values of solidarity, peace, humanism and culture. A world without borders where children everywhere will have the same rights to education and health. This is the world we want to live in, and this is the world we are fighting for at ELPIDA. And what is our promise for the future? We will be here! Always by the side of the children, but more than that: We will be there whenever the State is unable to help but children are in need. And we will take strength from them. We will draw courage when we hear them talking about ELPIDA as their second home. When they leave the hospital cured of cancer, and come back to us to help other children with the same problem. And we will feel like better people. Because I assure you that that is how I feel. Every time I am around them, every time I leave the hospital I feel like a better person. And I thank them for this. I hope and believe that we will all carry on together, bringing to us and to the children more and more people who think positively in this time of negativity, and who believe in hope in this time of despair. The promise I give this evening is a commitment for all of us at ELPIDA: that the dream that says that childhood cancer can be defeated will remain alive for us. Because for us at ELPIDA, the life of a single child IS WORTH OUR STRUGGLE!”.
During the event, the ELPIDA Messenger, Sakis Rouvas acted as narrator, taking the audience on a journey back in time to the early 1990s, when a tiny light of hope was lit for children suffering from cancer when the ELPIDA Association was founded. He invited the Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, Dr Stelios Grafakos, to present the ELPIDA Award of Excellence to Mrs Estelle Sotirhos, wife of the former American Ambassador to Greece, who was a founding member of ELPIDA alongside Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis and Mrs Irene Athanasiadou. The ELPIDA Excellence Award was also presented to the people who had been the first to talk about the foundation and actions of ELPIDA, the journalists who took ELPIDA’s message to society and raised their voices when it took its first steps. To Mr. Zachos Hatzifotiou and the late Natassa Dafermou, the award was accepted by her daughter Katerina, and to the British journalist Lord Michel Anders Cavendish, whose articles in the international press have helped to make ELPIDA’s work known throughout Europe.
The President of ELPIDA Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis then presented a Solidarity Award to H.B. Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece for his admirable social work, and International Solidarity Awards to international figures who share the dreams and values that ELPIDA advocates, who are allies in its struggle and who believe in a better tomorrow. More specifically, International Solidarity Awards were presented to HRH Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa of Luxembourg for her contribution to intercultural dialogue; Mrs. Anne-Aymone Giscard d’ Estaing, founder of the “Fondation pour l’Enfance” in France; Professor Federico Mayor, former Director General of UNESCO and President of the “Foundation for a Culture of Peace” in Spain, for disseminating the Culture of Peace; UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs. Kim Phuc Phan Thi for her campaign on behalf of child-victims of war; the heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub; the French Oncology Professor David Khayat; the Turkish Ambassador to Greece Mr. Kerim Uras for his contribution to the affiliation project between the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis-ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital and hospitals abroad; the Turkish Health Minister Mr. Mehmet Muezzinoglou for signing the cooperation agreement between the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis-ELPIDA” Childrens Oncology Hospital and the paediatric hospital in Ankara; the Canadian Ambassador to Greece Mr. Robert Peck for his contribution to the affiliation project between the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis-ELPIDA” Children’s Oncology Hospital and the “Sick Kids Hospital” in Canada; the famous Argentinean pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Miguel Angel Estrella for sharing his music with children; the famous Greek singer Nana Mouskouri who was the first who dedicated her concerts to ELPIDA; and the famous composer and Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO Jean Michel Jarre, for his contribution to ELPIDA and his outstanding performance “Acropolis” at the Herodion Theatre in Athens.
After thanking Mrs Vardinoyannis for the honour paid to them, the award-winners expressed their admiration for ELPIDA’s important work, as well as for Mrs Vardinoyannis herself, who they said was an example and source of inspiration for all. Professor David Khayat announced that Mrs Vardinoyannis would be given an award for her contribution by the “Charter of Paris Against Cancer” in Versailles in 2014, and Jean Michel Jarre wished that every country should one day have their own Marianna!
Five children, champions of life who not only managed to win the battle against cancer but who have also excelled in the areas in which they operate, were also honoured at the event. These five children Antonis Fotiadis, Christina Fitili, Efi Vlami, Stelios Papardelas and Maria Bousia were awarded ELPIDA Medals by HE the President of the Hellenic Republic Dr Karolos Papoulias. An ELPIDA Excellence Award was presented to Mr Zafeiris Fotiadis, father of Antonis Fotiadis, who has supported ELPIDA with all his might ever since his son got well.
The most moving moment of the event was when Efi Vlami, two-times Greek fencing champion, offered her medal to Mrs Vardinoyannis as an expression of gratitude, telling her that it was the least she could do for her.
Sakis Rouvas acted as Master of Ceremonies and the former Vice President of the European Parliament, Mrs. Rodi Kratsa, presented the International Solidarity Awards.
The event was honoured with the presence of leading figures from the intellectual, artistic, political, diplomatic and business life, ELPIDA’s benefactors and donors, heads of non-governmental organisations, media representatives, and members and friends of ELPIDA, amongst others.
Mrs Vardinoyannis, her husband Vardis J. Vardinoyannis and the members of their family were among the first to arrive at the MEGARON Athens Concert Hall.
Others who attended the event included: The Prime Ministers wife, Mrs Georgia Samara, Mr Fotis Kouvelis, Mr Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Mrs Natassa Karamanli, HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia, the Greek Ministers: Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Yiannis Michelakis, Adonis Georgiades, and Nikos Dendias with their wives, Panos Panagiotopoulos, Olga Kefalogianni and her husband Manos Pentheroudakis, Fofi Gennimata and her husband Andreas Tsounis, and Simos Kedikoglou. The MPs: Dimitris Sioufas and his wife, Dora Bakoyiannis and her husband Isidoros Kouvelos, Sifis Valyrakis and his wife, Andreas Lykourentzos, Fotini Pipili and Petros Efthymiou. The Ambassadors of Australia, Argentina, China, Denmark, Sweden, Ukraine, Belgium, Norway, Vietnam, Luxembourg, Georgia and Morocco. The Chief of the Hellenic Navy, Vice Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis and his wife. The members of the Academy of Athens: Professor Christos Zerefos and Professor Evangelos Moutsopoulos with his wife. The Representative of the His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch, Archimandrite Krikris. Mayors from many towns, Olympic medallists, the members of the Board of Directors of ELPIDA: Aikaterini Metaxotou, Eleni Samara-Konstantakatou and her husband, Georgina Ellina, Ketty Filippidou, Becky Stravelaki, Melina Daskalaki and her husband, Vicky Filippou and her husband, Dina Pritsiveli, Ino Konstantopoulou and her husband, Rita Pikrou Moraitaki and her husband, Alina Minetta, Elli Tzanetatou and her husband, and the founding member of ELPIDA Mrs Irene Athanasiadou and her husband. Also present were: Ilias and Aggeliki Tsingas, Minos and Mari Kyriakou, Stavros and Christina Psycharis, Spyros Metaxas, Ilias Metaxas, Antonis Livanis, Kostas and Marina Lalioti, Nikos Papandreou, Giorgos Alexandridis, Giannis Manos, Shana Papadimou, Anny Petraki, Katia Zygouli, Konstantis Spyropoulos and Elmina Kopelouzou, Alkisti Prinou and many artists: Dionysis Savvopoulos, Nonika Galinea, Elli Kokkinou, Mimis Plessas, Giorgos Hatzinasios, Tasos Kostis, Nino, Thanos Petrelis and many others.
The event was sponsored by MOTOR OIL (HELLAS) SA.