Deptford, NJ – On the eve of Greek Independence day in Philadelphia, it was an emotional Saturday evening. Through poem and passionate heartfelt comments, the Greek community united and listened as honored guest and Eleftheria Medal recipient, Dr. Spiro Spireas closed with his thoughts on Hellenism, family, and Orthodoxy. “These are the elements that make us Greek and forge our identity”, said Spireas. Spireas was the second recipient in as many years to receive the honor that is given to a dedicated Hellene.

Federation Vice President and parade chairman, Nick Spiliotis introduced Dr. Spireas by describing him as loyal and unwavering, in his speech. His continued devotion to Hellenism and his philanthropic efforts are well known in the Greek community and nationally.

Sponsored by the Federation of Hellenic American Societies of Philadelphia, some 250 attendees from throughout the Delaware Valley listened, as speaker after speaker took the podium. Nicole Tsarouchas gave two wonderful renditions of both Greek and American National anthems setting the tone for the evening.

Stathis Karandonis, President of the Federation was recognized by AHEPA for his continued efforts to lead the organization and community. Karandonis has been at the forefront as president of the Federation for the past two years reinvigorating it as the umbrella organization for the Philadelphia Greek community.

Federation past president, George Horiates touched on the history of 9-11 and the loss of Danielle Kousoulis, a member of the St. Thomas Greek community. A moment of silence in honor of those lost followed, echoing the sentiment and the importance of the evening for all. “Kousoulis was a rising star, both literally and physically”, said Horiates. as parents, George and Zoe looked on and shed tears. At the age of 29, Kousoulis was a vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald, when her life was cut short when the towers in New York were brought down.

Her brother Peter Kousoulis spoke about the tragedy and then about the importance of Hellenism in his life. He closed with a quote from Winston Churchill. “Hence, we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.” Before exiting, he yelled, Zhito Hellas, triggering guests to applause and cheer.

The evening conclude when Dr. Spireas was joined at the podium by family members and George and Zoe Kousoulis. Honorary marshall and Grand Marshall sashes were awarded as hugs and smiles were exchanged. The Spireas and Kousoulis families will march in Sunday’s parade along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, scheduled to start at 2:00 pm. A float dedicated to the life of Danielle Kousoulis will also be present, forever embedding in our minds, the importance of this year’s Greek Independence Day parade.