#HipNJ’s Lisa Marie Latino was in Washington D.C. for the 29th Annual Sons of Italy Foundation National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala!
Leaders in military, public service, and non-profit received awards from the Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF). The SIF is the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), which is the nation’s largest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage!
Over 400 attendees gathered at the Omni Shoreham Hotel to celebrate the achievements of the night’s honorees! The honorees include Rear Admiral Margaret DeLuca “Peg” Klein (U.S. Navy, Ret.), Honorable Jessica Garfola Wright (Major General, Ret.), and Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind’s president & CEO Tony Cancelosi.
Previous SIF honorees include; President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro; Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, entertainers; Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Annette Funicello, Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise; and sports legends; Mario Andretti, Geno Auriemma and Tommy LaSorda.
In addition, the SIF awarded 11 highly selective scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students of Italian descent. These scholarships were awarded to students who have displayed exemplary academic performance, school leadership, and community service.
Furthermore, for the 15th straight year, actor Joe Mantegna served as the Master of Ceremonies of the NELA Gala. Among the special guests that attended are Joseph Cicippio, Iran hostage survivor and Joseph Cicippio, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Many members of Sons of Italy New Jersey lodges were in attendance, including National 3rd Vice President Robert A. Bianchi, Esq. of Morris Plains!
Adding to the festive mood were performances by tenor Michael Amante and opera singer Maria Fassio Pignati.
Special guests at the NELA Gala included veterans, wounded soldiers, and their families. The SIF recognized these servicemen and women for their duty to our country at the gala.
Over the past years the NELA gala has raised more than $33 million for those serving our country. This year a special presentation was given to recognize the SIF’s recent $20,000 donation to Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH)! HOMH is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing adaptive minivans to our country’s severely wounded, injured, and ill veterans from their service during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In a broader sense, the SIF has contributed nearly $165 million to scholarships, medical research, disaster relief efforts, cultural projects, veterans’ causes and other special projects. The proceeds earned from the NELA Gala help to fund the organization’s philanthropy.
For more information, visit OSIA.org.