A moving event, to signal the opening of the celebrations for the 30-year anniversary since its foundation, was held by the ELPIDA Association of Friends of Children with Cancer, in the presence of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos, on Thursday, 27 June 2019, at the Atrium of the Zappeio Mansion.
Andri Anastasiadi, First Lady of Cyprus, Sissy Pavlopoulou, the wife of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Irina Bokova, former Director General of UNESCO, representatives of all Greek parties, the Church, the business, diplomatic, art, scientific and media world were there to honour ELPIDA and its President, Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis for the 30 years of contribution to the Greek society.
The event and Marianna V. Vardinoyannis herself were warmly embraced by 30 of the thousands of cured children of ELPIDA, who came on stage holding 30 illuminated balloons, full of hope and light, symbolising the 30 years of ELPIDA, in order to thank the organisation and Mrs Vardinoyannis. Mrs Vardinoyannis came up on the stage, clearly touched, to receive the 30th balloon, to embrace all of the children, and ultimately to release the balloons into the starlit sky.
In her speech, Mrs Vardinoyannis thanked the 500 guests, since, in her own words, the work of ELPIDA is the product of the efforts of all the Greek people. “I remember each one of the ELPIDA children by their first name and unique history. Each one is so special! Everyone together they have always been our strength, teaching us that the impossible can
become possible. In fact, most of you here took this long journey with me, and this is everyone’s achievement. What makes me smile and gives my heart the greatest satisfaction is that ELPIDA united the Greek people! I humbly pay my respects to the anonymous Greeks, who always find a way to contribute, even when their own pockets are nearly empty. I am truly proud to see that ELPIDA is growing day by day, and its message transmitted to every corner of Greece”, Mrs Vardinoyannis concluded.
Prokopios Pavlopoulos, the President of the Hellenic Republic, spoke about the great work of ELPIDA, calling the organisation a “Bastion of Humanity and Solidarity”. “I personally wish that ELPIDA will continue to open new, bright roads, to support the Children who suffer – essentially roads for our fellow humans and for life. Roads we so much need, as Humanity and Solidarity are being, unfortunately increasingly, tested. I further wish that ELPIDA will inspire many more, not just to join its ranks, but follow its unrivalled example by building their own Bastion of Humanity and Solidarity, Mr Pavlopoulos added.
The First Lady of Cyprus, Ms Anastasiadis, then took the floor to note that: “The selfless and tireless activity of all friends of the Association through time, faithful to the fight against haematological and oncological diseases of childhood and the teenage years, helped hundreds of children to feel that they are not alone in their daily personal battle and gave them the courage, strength and hope to fight and come out of this ordeal as winners. Please allow me to make special reference to Marianna V. Vardinoyannis. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, with whom, apart from our deep and close relationship, we are first and foremost connected by the vision and purpose of the double Elpida. The one in Greece and the one in Cyprus. Thanks to Marianna, who is known for her inherent sensitivity and solidarity, unending reserves of voluntarism, humanitarianism and love, who has consciously dedicated her life, body and soul, with her personal and financial commitments and efforts, children with cancer can truly have hope”.
The Government was represented by the Minister of State, Mr. Alekos Flabouraris, who stated in his address: “I believe, and we believe, that this effort needs not only to continue, but be crowned with incredible success”.
The Head of the Opposition party, Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis, sent a video message with his wishes for the 30 years of ELPIDA: “For the past 30 years, the ELPIDA Association of Friends of Children with Cancer has been a bright beacon of solidarity and humanitarianism. With its important work it has given life, hope and a smile to thousands of children, serving as valuable support for their families. I would like to wish to all contributors of this amazing effort, and in particular Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, who is the heart and soul of the Association, to continue contributing to Elpida for years to come. We will stand by them in every way. Because they deserve it. And because the life of even a single child is worth every effort”.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos was represented by the Bishop of Thespies Symeon, who read out the Archbishop’s written message: “We have all felt, I am sure, the beneficial presence of ELPIDA for the past third years in our country. With the opportunity of this anniversary and the events that will escalate over the coming months, we would like to express our sincerest wishes and warmest congratulations to the honourable Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis and her associates. They should all be confident that the seeds they have sowed and the field they ploughed will bear fruit in our society and in the hearts of the people”, were some of the things the written message of the Archbishop had to say.
Ms Fofi Gennimatas, President of the KINAL party, was also present and stated: “You demonstrated that your initiative had great impetus. Because you offered life, you offered Hope and numerous smiles.
The event was also addressed by the MP of the Greek Communist Party, Ms Liana Kanelli: “They say that 30 years is an entire life. The lives that were save thanks to Marianna’s inspiration are many more, reaching on to eternity because they offer a continuity”.
A written address was also sent by the Director General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay: “I am grateful to Mrs Vardinoyannis for the dedication she has shown in her duties as Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO, and as President of ELPIDA, for all the initiatives she has taken to stand by the side of children with cancer and their families. This work aligns perfectly with the purposes of UNESCO to promote the well-being of men, women and mostly children, through solidarity”.
The event was also attended by the former Director General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, who noted: “The Association started out as a spark of hope, but is now a dream come true. A dream by Mrs Vardinoyannis, and a dream for thousands of children and their families, inside and outside of Greece. And this deserves our respect and admiration”.
During this very special day, the Association decided to announce its cooperation with the National Institute of Oncology of France, in honour of its Founder, Professor David Khayat, one of the leading oncologists globally.
The President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos, awarded professor David Khayat with the highest distinction of the Association, the Award of Humanitarian Innovation. Meletios Athanasios Dimopoulos, Dean of the National and Kapodistrian University, spoke about the leading French scientist and his work. After that, Professor Khayat gave the keynote speech of the evening, titled “Cancer: What have we learned?”
The event closed with a musical surprise that left the guests enthralled. Sakis Rouvas, “ELPIDA’S Messenger”, and Michalis Hatzigiannis, “ELPIDA’s Artist”, accompanied by the Manolis Kalomoiris children’s choir, under the direction of Nikos Malliaras, sang for ELPIDA.
The talented singer, Sofia Manousaki, then went on to perform a song composed especially for the 30-year anniversary of ELPIDA, by the internationally famous pianist and composer Stefanos Korkolis, with the title “Embracing the future together”, lyrics by Revekka Roussi. Savvas Rakintzakis played the piano, and Sofia Manousaki was accompanied by the children’s choir.
The event was moderated by the President of the Association of Owners of Daily Newspapers of Athens, Mr. Nikos Hatzinikolaou.