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A “Homemade“ FUNDRAISER for Greek Children

By on November 14, 2014
Prince Alexander, Princess Katherine and her Sister with Dr. and Mrs. Smith, the hosts of the benefit dinner

Prince Alexander, Princess Katherine and her Sister with Dr. and Mrs. Smith, the hosts of the benefit dinner

Dr. Spyros Smith and his wife Litsa hosted a fundraiser for the “Mαζί για το Παιδί” charity at their home in Connecticut. The Athens-based organization, which translates to “Together for Children,” is a collection of 10 non-profits committed to the medical wellbeing of Greek children in need. “They provide incubators for neo-nates, beds, respiratory machines, you name it,” says Dr. Smith.

Though the Smiths had given to charity in the past, with this fundraiser, “we decided to get off our butts and do something,” he says with a laugh. As the medical chairman of patient experience at Danbury Hostpital, Dr. Smith is no stranger to planning events. However, he admits it’s a bit more stressful when the event is taking place at your home. “Let’s put it this way, five months of sleepless nights!” he jokes. “At the hospital, you can go to people and say ‘here, do this’. At home, you’re the one doing,” he explains.

D. Smith and his wife Litsa with the Governor of Connecticut Dannel Malloy

D. Smith and his wife Litsa with the Governor of Connecticut Dannel Malloy

Rather than go for glitz and glamour, the Smiths wanted the event to have a personal touch. To achieve this, the couple meticulously planned every aspect of the it, Mrs. Smith prepared most of the food herself, and the guest list was made up of family and close friends. “It was a personal touch endeavor. It was a family-oriented affair and everybody there was very dear to us,” he says.

Dr. Smith introduces Dr. Bartzokas, President of "Together for Children"

Dr. Smith introduces Dr. Bartzokas, President of “Together for Children”

Among the fundraiser’s 120 attendees were Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia and Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia (who the Smiths were introduced to through a mutual friend), Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Focus Features’ ex-CEO Andrew Karpen, Photronics Inc. CEO Constantine Macricostas, singer Serapheim Lazos, and Dr. Christos Bartzokas, the president of Together for Children, who flew in from Athens specially. The crowd was entertained by Jadranka Jovanovic, the primadonna of the Serbian opera, who played a dual role of performer and attendee.

Princess Katherine with boys & girls who helped at the event

Princess Katherine with boys & girls who helped at the event

Aside from just fundraising at the event, the Smiths also put together a vacation raffle. Mrs. Smith offered a stay at her hotel in Greece, and also called upon friends with hotels in places such as Santorini, Rhodes, and Turkey to donate.

At the end of the night, all the baskets had sold and the event had raised over $48,000, an amount that astounded planners and attendees alike. “We expected to raise about half of that, about $25,000-$30,000 and we would have been really happy with that,” says Dr. Smith. Another indication that the event was a success? “Governor Malloy usually stays from 20 minutes to a half an hour. This time he stayed for two and a half hours.”

Primadona Jadrank Jovanovic with troubadour Seraphim Lazos

Primadona Jadrank Jovanovic with troubadour Seraphim Lazos

Dr. Smith attributes the evening’s low key vibe and close-knit guest list to its success. Though most of the attendees were not Greek, they were inspired to donate to the Greek-based Together for Children both because of their friendship with the hosts and because the event “was very home feeling for everybody.”

Dr. Smith with Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton

Dr. Smith with Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton

According to Dr. Smith, the next step in the process is making sure the money gets put in the right hands. To this end, they are keeping in close contact with the organization’s founder, Dr. Bartzokas.

Dr. Batzokas and his wife

Dr. Batzokas and his wife

When asked if he and Mrs. Smith would host another event, he said that, despite the stress and sleepless nights, the couple is indeed planning on throwing another fundraiser in the next few years, though probably on a smaller scale.

About Cindy Klimek