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SIF Announces 2000 NELA Gala

The Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF) will hold its 12th Annual National Education and Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala May 25, 2000, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Auto racing legend Mario Andretti and actress/singer Connie Stevens will be honored; Vic Damone will perform a special tribute to Frank Sinatra. Tommy Lasorda will be the evening's emcee.


Diane E. Crespy
(202) 547-2900

Sons of Italy Foundation® Holds 12th Annual NELA Gala
to Continue History of Charitable Contribution

Mario Andretti to be Honored;
Connie Stevens to Receive Humanitarian Award

Vic Damone to perform at Gala in Washington, D.C.

Tommy Lasorda to emcee the event

Washington, D.C., April 28, 2000 - Racing legend Mario Andretti and actress/singer Connie Stevens will be honored by the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF) when they accept the organization's prestigious National Education and Leadership Award (NELA) and Humanitarian Award, respectively, at the 12th Annual NELA Gala, the SIF's principal public affairs and

fund-raising event, May 25, 2000, at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

The National Education and Leadership Awards Gala regularly attracts corporate and nonprofit CEOs; members of congress; cabinet members; dignitaries; leading entertainment personalities such as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra Jr., Tony Lo Bianco, Fred Travelena, and emcees Regis Philbin and Larry King; members of the Italian-American community; and President Clinton has addressed gala attendees the past two years. Proceeds from the gala benefit various educational, health and medical charities, cultural preservation, disaster relief, and other special projects, to which the SIF has contributed more than $67 million since its inception in 1959.

Foremost in the SIF's charitable efforts is its National Leadership Grant Competition (NLGC). Each year hundreds of Italian-American students compete for scholarship awards ranging from $4,000 to $10,000, with a special $15,000 scholarship being offered this year. Recipients attend the NELA Gala to receive their awards. The SIF and its state and local affiliates have awarded more than $31 million in scholarships since 1968. The SIF has contributed an additional $36 million to other philanthropic causes, including the Alzheimer's Association, the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, the SLE (Lupus) Foundation, Inc., the Children's Inn at NIH, the March of Dimes, the Garibaldi Meucci Museum, earthquake relief in Assisi and Mexico, and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

"We are pleased to honor Mario Andretti and Connie Stevens who, in the spirit of the Sons of Italy Foundation®, have chosen to give back to their communities and the world through the promotion of education and support of philanthropic causes, and by remaining admirable leaders that younger generations can look up to," said Paul S. Polo, Sons of Italy Foundation® President.

Andretti, who has been named "Driver of the Century" by Racer magazine, has 109 career victories to his credit, including 52 Indy, 12 Formula One, nine Sprint car, seven Formula 5000 and World Sports Car, five dirt track, and three IROC wins. He was the first driver to win both the Indy car and Formula One championships, the only to win Indy car victories in four decades, and the only to win races in five decades.

Andretti has also made a name for himself in consumer products. His name brands wine, petroleum, an auto dealership, video games, go-cart tracks, car washes and car care products, books, apparel, and an IMAX movie.

His philanthropic endeavors are just as impressive as his racing career. Andretti donates his time, energy, and money to various charity organizations that range in work from health and medicine to environmental concerns to education and other children's charities. Included are Paul Newman's "Hole in the Wall Gang Camp" and "Missionary Vehicle Association," Detroit Medical Center, and Children's Hospital of Michigan, and the Mario Andretti Golf Classic, which benefits Child Watch of North America

Stevens has had an extensive acting, singing, a producing career. She first came to the public's attention as the character "Cricket Blake" on the television series "Hawaiian Eye." She went on to launch an acting career, appearing in such films as "Palm Springs Weekend," "Rock-A-Bye-Baby," and "Grease II."

But she is known by many for her philanthropy. She has taken numerous projects under her wing, including the CES/Diginity of Jackson Hole Foundation in Jackson Hole, Wyo., which supports the mentally and physically challenged. Her Windfeather project provides scholarships for Native American youth.

Entertainer Vic Damone, member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, will perform for the gala attendees, accompanied by a 22-piece orchestra. Damone, in his 53rd year as a performer, has recorded more than 2000 songs, including 30 new recordings which are included on his most recent album "The Legendary Vic Damone." He has also had a respectable movie career, appearing in films such as "Rich, Young, and Pretty," "Hell to Eternity," "Athena," "Deep in Your Heart," "Kismet," "Crash Boat," and "Hit the Deck."

Los Angeles Dodgers Senior Vice President and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Lasorda will also be on hand to emcee the gala. He is the recipient of the SIF's first Humanitarian Award, which was presented to him at the 1997 NELA Gala.

For more information on the Sons of Italy Foundation® or attending the 12th Annual NELA Gala, please contact Alison M. Torrillo, special projects manager, at (202) 547-3833 or via email at Visit the Sons of Italy Foundation® online:

Media: For information on covering the NELA Gala, please contact Diane E. Crespy, communications manager, at (202) 547-2900 or via email at