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Gala Highlights

2009 NELA Gala Highlights

The 2009 NELA Gala was a celebration of Italian American culture and achievement & the 50th Anniversary of the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF). To date, the SIF has given more than $105 million to education, medical research, disaster relief, cultural preservation and other special causes. Above: The 2009 National Leadership Grant recipients, who will attend prestigious institutions like Harvard, Penn and Columbia with the help of Sons of Italy® scholarships.


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Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., became the first person not of Italian heritage to receive the SIF's highest honor, the 2009 National Education & Leadership Award. In his introduction of the Vice President, Master of Ceremonies Joe Mantegna explained, "For more than 20 years, the Foundation has honored its own. This year we reached beyond our community to honor a man whose impressive devotion and contributions to our nation are second to none." Mr. Biden proudly accepted the award as "one of the finest honors" of his career. "But on a more personal level," Mr. Biden said, "This award means so much to me because, although I am Irish, I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Claymore, Delaware. ...So I am proud to be 'in your neighborhood' that nurtured me and made me what I am." Above: Vice President Biden accepts his award with his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and granddaughter Naomi by his side.


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Mary Ann Esposito, host and creator of Public Television's "Ciao Italia!" received the SIF Lifetime Achievement Award in the Culinary and Cultural Arts of Italy. Above: SIF 2004 Humanitarian Award honoree Frances Visco (left), president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, presents Ms. Esposito her Lifetime Achievement Award.


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The Hon. Arthur J. Gajarsa, judge for the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, was presented the SIF Lifetime Achievement Award for Jurisprudence and Italian American Leadership. Above: SIF 1992 National Education & Leadership Award recipient Dr. Anthony S. Fauci (left), director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at NIH, makes the presentation to Judge Gajarsa.


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International President of Transportation-Communications Union/International Association of Machinists Robert A. Scardelletti was honored with the SIF Humanitarian Award. Above: Presenting the award to Mr. Scardelletti is AFL-CIO International Secretary-Treasurer Richard L. Trumka (right), 2003 SIF Humanitarian Award honoree.


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Among the guests at this year's NELA Gala were celebrities, government officials, business and labor leaders, and members of the Italian-American and philanthropic communities. Above (left to right): SIF National Executive Director/CEO Philip R. Piccigallo; renowned actor, friend of the Sons of Italy Foundation® and "Criminal Minds" star Joe Mantegna, who served as Master of Ceremonies; FBI Washington Field Office Assistant Director Joseph Persichini, Jr.; and "Criminal Minds" star Thomas Gibson


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Truly an event that bridges the United States and Italy, every year the NELA Gala hosts diplomatic officials, members of Congress, and White House staff. Above: Italy's Ambassador to the United States On. Giovanni Castellanetta (right) and SFC Antonio Giuliano of the U.S. Army Chorus, who opened the evening with the national anthems of Italy and the United States. Also in attendance were White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and former Congresswoman Connie Morella.


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Vice President Joe Biden arrives that the NELA Gala and is met by Sons of Italy Foundation® National Executive Director/CEO Phil Piccigallo.


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World-class entertainment is standard at the annual NELA Gala and has included the likes of Tony Bennett (a three-time performer), Vic Damone, and Frank Sinatra, Jr. Above: Veteran Gala performer and established tenor Michael Amante serenades 800 Gala guests with Puccini's "Nessun Dorma."


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The 2009 NELA Gala featured two very special performances that perfectly complemented the evening's celebrations. Above: Soprano Giada Valenti flawlessly caps off the night with selections sung in English, Italian and French.


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The Great Hall of the National Building Museum minutes before the doors opened for the 21st Annual National Education & Leadership Awards Gala.


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The NELA featured the Passport to Italy Tasting Reception. For the second year, some of Washington, D.C.'s best restaurants and favorite chefs donated their time and delicious food to indulge the palate of gala guests. Participating restaurants were Café Milano, D'Acqua, Darlington House, Galileo III, Il Mulino, Lia's, Potenza, and Teatro Goldoni. Colavita provided a tasting tour of Italian olive oils and G.S. Gelato presented vodka and lemon flavor sorbet. Guests also took home some culinary delights in gift bags of Colavita olive oil and pasta sauce from La Famiglia DelGrosso. Above: Darlington House serves melone e prosciutto, compressed melon with prosciutto San Daniele.


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The SIF hosted an online-to-live silent auction that featured travel and vacation packages, fine dining, and celebrity experiences. Among the auction donors were Alitalia, Giada Valenti, Joe Mantegna, Mary Ann Esposito, Paul Polo, Rachael Ray, The Breakers, and Vince Ferragamo. View the commemorative Gala journal for a full list of auction donors. Above: Sons of Italy Foundation® staff and volunteers guide NELA guests through bidding for the silent auction.


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2008: 20th Anniversary of the NELA Gala

A Milestone Year by Dr. Philip R. Piccigallo

20 Years of the NELA Gala video

Previous NELA Gala Highlights

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