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Tony Bennett, Joe Mantegna in D.C for Sons of Italy Foundation® Gala

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900

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NEWS - For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2003 - Legendary entertainer Tony Bennett, award-winning stage and screen actor Joe Mantegna and the star of Broadway's "The Phantom of the Opera," Hugh Panaro, played key roles in the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF) gala, May 22 at Washington's historic National Building Museum.

Bennett and Panaro performed and Mantegna was the evening's master of ceremonies during the SIF's National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

The event helped the SIF raise funds for scholarships, medical research, disaster relief, scholarships and cultural programs. Since 1959, the SIF has given more than $83 million to these causes.

New York Gov. George Pataki was honorary dinner chairman. Keynote speaker of the evening representing the White House was Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico. Other guests included comedian Dennis Miller; U.S. Ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler; NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue; Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos; AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Evan Bayh (D-In.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

Also present were U.S. Representatives John Larson (D-Conn.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Nick Lampson (D-Texas), as well as leaders from industry, business and labor. The fund-raiser was attended by a large delegation from Italy, including Italy's ambassador to the United States, Sergio Vento, and representatives from the regions of Lazio, Lombardy and Veneto.

This year's honorees were former ambassador Charles Gargano, now chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, which oversees the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan and Ground Zero; Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO; and automotive designer and engineer Andy Granatelli, considered by many as the man who made auto racing America's number one spectator sport.

The SIF is the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the largest and longest established national organization for men and women of Italian heritage in the United States. Italian Americans are the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For more information on the SIF and its efforts, visit