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The white tents evoking sailboats amid the deep blue sky and waters of the Mediterranean overflowed with love and family feeling during the 6th annual Blue Dream gala of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons Kimisis tis Theotokou the evening of August 27.
The proceeds of the much anticipated event beautifully set on church grounds benefited the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, which was “created to honor the life of Joseph R. “Beau” Biden, III, and to continue his life’s work: ensuring that all children are free from the threat of abuse.”
Biden, who championed children’s causes, especially as Attorney General of Delaware, is the son of Vice President Joe Biden, who along with his wife Dr. Jill Biden thrilled the guests by joining the rest of Beau’s family for the event that honored both his son and the foundation created to carry his legacy. Beau Biden’s wife Hallie, and his siblings Hunter and Ashley Biden were honorary chairs of the event.
After evoking a spirited burst of applause by announcing “Ladies and gentleman, the Vice President of the United States,” Father Alexander Karloutsos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, said of Beau Biden, “Although far too brief he lived his brilliant life in the service of others, especially for innocent children.”
On behalf of his family the Vice President expressed deep appreciation for the tribute to his beloved son and spoke of the love and gratitude he feels for the Greek-American community, not only for the support it has given him for the very start of his public service career but because so many of its members have stood by him in some of his most difficult moments. The Vice President often notes that his Greek friends call him “Joe Bidenopoulos” and that “The Bidens consider the Greek community family.”
CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo said he was honored to serve as emcee and declared “before we begin the program I think we should remember who we want to thank most of all tonight” and invited Archbishop Demetrios of America to offer the invocation to God, assisted by Father Constantine Lazarakis, co-pastor with Fr. Karloutsos of the Church of the Kimisis.
Archbishop Demetrios also called down God’s blessings on the Biden Family “and to give rest eternal to Beau and to bless the foundation in his name, and to keep our children as safe as possible.”
In a somber moment His Eminence noted that given the focus of the foundation that was being honored, he felt compelled to note “a message full of pain an anxiety” referring to news reports earlier in the day that children of refuges have been attacked sexually in Greece.
To convey that all children must be cherished and protected, Archbishop Demetrios cited one of the Bible passages where Jesus Christ spoke of children – “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
He noted, however, that it is not an easy passage to interpret. “Normally people think that means to become innocent. According to Church Fathers and modern interpreters, the reverence for children is very specific,” focusing “on one particular aspect: children are very trusting. They trust father and mother …so when Jesus asks us to become like children he is saying that adults should have the same faith and trust in God that children have in their parents.”
Echoing Father Karloutsos, who said Beau Biden “called us all to become children’s guardian angels on Earth,” Archbishop Demetrios concluded “So if we are involved in such a wonderful and noble and absolutely admirable effort, we have to trust that God is with us and God will help us.”
When Cuomo later introduced a video about the work of the Foundation, he referred to the reality in the United States, where 1 in 4 girls and one in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
As horrific as those number are, they do not begin to tell the story, so he urged those present to join in the battle to protect children by citing the great 6th century theologian St. Maximus the Confessor: “We shall not only be judged for the evil we have done, but for the good we have neglected.”
He said the quote offered “insight into what made Beau so inspirational and special for all of us in these modern but turbulent times, and noted that “Beau’s life was not only dedicated to protecting and defending the innocent from evil doers, but also to inspiring the do-gooders amongst us to be even more good than we ever thought possible. You see, for Beau ‘average’ goodness was just not good enough.”
Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Ed Royce, and Lee Zeldin, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Peter and Mary Kallikow, John, Margo and Andrea Catsimatidis were also present, and dignitaries included actor Matt Dillon, who emceed past Blue Dreams, Mica Ertegun, designer Beth Buccini, David Peterson, and Anna Throne Holst.
Fr. Karloutsos, said of the gathering that it was a “proof of the legacy” of Beau Biden that “this is the biggest and the best Blue Dream gala ever,” with 510 people in attendance under the tent and in The Muses hall of the Nicholas S. Zoullas Hellenic Center. He said “I want to thank all of you who made this night of beauty and benefaction possible, and to single out our co-chairs Emily Chen Carrera, dynamic Board member of the Beau Biden Foundation, Angela Giannopoulos, whose imagination created the magic moments,” and presented the award, “Karen Mehiel who reflects the ancient Greek adage that ‘that which is virtuous is both beautiful and good,’ my much-loved wife of 46 years Presbytera Xanthi, and our cherished daughter Olga Palladino, for her founding vision and passion” for the Blue Dream.
Palladino thanked her co-chairs, Chris Cuomo, and “the tireless volunteers who worked countless hours, and the cheerful givers” who have helped the noble causes supported by the gala through the years.
The guests also enjoyed an exhibit of painting by contemporary Greek artists curated by Irene Vantaraki and there was a buzz all night over the items presented for the silent auction.
AHEPA’s new Supreme President Andrew Zachariades said “We are here to honor Father Karloutsos and the Beau Biden Foundation for the wonderful work they are doing and I am pleased to be representing AHEPA and the wider Hellenic community.”
Kay Halikias, whose son Dr. John Halikias served on the committee, was very pleased with the event’s success given how complicated the planning was for the honor of having the Vice President attend, “but aside from that, we just like being here,” she said.
The Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children was established in June of 2015 “as an operating non-profit to continue Beau Biden’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us, especially children who have fallen victim to abuse and neglect.”
Through the Blue Dream summer gala the parish has made significant contributions to the Children’s Tumor Foundation, Wounded Warriors Through Sports, Amani Global Works, and Refugees International. Since Blue Dream’s inception in 2011 more than $650,000 has been given to charities.