Relive the 31st National Education and Leadership Awards Gala

May 29, 2019 587

Leaders in business, Italian-American causes, and military received awards from the Sons of Italy Foundation® (SIF), the philanthropic arm of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America® (OSDIA), the nation’s largest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage.

Bruno Ciacciarelli (President of Roadtex Transportation), Vivian Cardia (Benefactor & Supporter of Italian-American Causes), and The Frank & Angela Donio Family (Charity & Civic Involvement) were honored on May 23 at the SIF’s 31st Annual National Education & Leadership Award (NELA) Gala hosted at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. For the 17th straight year, actor Joe Mantegna served as the Master of Ceremonies of the NELA Gala. Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani served as the gala’s first-ever Honorary Chairman.

Vivian Cardia received the 2019 SIF National Education & Leadership Award (NELA) for her longtime support of and involvement in Italian-American causes. One of the first Italian-American women to be a member of and trader on the American stock exchange, Ms. Cardia then went into the family business, running a restaurant and managing properties—for which she set up Vivicar, LLC. She has been involved in numerous Italian-American organizations, including La Scuola d’Italia, NOIAW (National Organization of Italian American Women), John Cabot University in Rome, American Society of the Italian Legion of Merit, and the American Foundation of Savoy Orders

Ms. Cardia spoke about her family history and its success in the restaurant business, particularly in relation to hard work. “(My father) taught me that work is all noble as long as it’s honest and you do it to the best of your ability,” she said. Ms. Cardia ended her speech, touching upon her role as a benefactor of many worthy causes. “Thanks to my parents, I am now enjoying a wonderful life and giving away all the money they worked hard for,” she said. “And enjoying every minute of it.”

Bruno Ciacciarelli received the 2019 SIF Excellence in Business Award for his success in the transportation industry. Born in San Giorgio a Liri, Italy (Lazio region), Mr. Ciacciarelli is the epitome of the American Dream. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1970s and with his business partner, Bob Kelly, formed Roadtex Transportation in 1992. Today, the trucking company has 1,500 employees and 31 terminals. To fully realize the American Dream, Mr. Ciacciarelli proudly became a U.S. citizen.

In accepting the award, Mr. Ciacciarelli spoke about his experience and the American Dream. “I came to this country 47 years ago with a suitcase full of dreams,” he said. “I have been able to build a successful company with the help of my partner Bob Kelly.” He then offered inspirational words. “The American Dream is very much alive,” he said. “If you only work hard and believe in yourself, it will be there for you, too.”

Lt. General (ret.) Raymond Palumbo received the 2019 SIF Award for Courage & Patriotism for his career in military service that spanned 34 years. A retired 3-star U.S. Army general, master aviator, and parachutist, Lt. Gen. Palumbo led conventional and special operations forces during peacetime and in combat. He completed his military career as Director for Defense for Intelligence where he simultaneously led the Pentagon’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force. He then co-founded Venturi Solutions LLC, a consultancy that delivers solutions in the aerospace, defense, and intelligence industries.

Lt. Gen. Palumbo spoke about the courage for which he was being honored—courage that made him think of his grandparents, who immigrated to the United States from the mountains of Abruzzi. “I think that was courage,” he said. “Courage to leave your homeland to come to America to start something fresh with nothing more than a suitcase or what was on your back.”

The Frank & Angela Donio Family received the 2019 SIF Humanitarian for their involvement in charitable and civic organizations. Angela was a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 1978 and led the transformational growth of Downtown Hammonton. Her late husband, Frank, took to Catholic religious communities of Sisters. They had three sons: Frank, John, and Jim. Father Frank is a priest in the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers, a religious community founded in Rome whose first ministry in the United States was to serve Italian immigrants. John is a hotelier leading the resurgence of Wildwood, New Jersey. Jim has focused his attention in the last 25 years on the renaissance of Hammonton, including his founding and leadership of the Eagle Theatre.

In accepting the award, Jim Donio and John Donio along with their mother, Angela, spoke about their family history and the sacrifices that were made to pave the way for future generations. For the first time in NELA Gala history, a NELA honoree—Father Frank S. Donio—gave the closing Benediction.

In addition to honoring these distinguished individuals, the SIF awarded 10 highly selective scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students of Italian descent for exemplary academic performance, school leadership, and community service.

Dozens of wounded servicemen and women, veterans, and their families were special guests of the SIF and were recognized at the NELA Gala for their service to the country. Honorary Chairman Admiral Giambastiani introduced a special video presentation that recognized the SIF’s recent $20,000 donation to Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing fully equipped, adaptive minivans to our country’s most severely wounded, injured, and ill service men and women who sustained their injuries while on active duty. This marked the fifth donation in six years that the SIF has made to HOMH.

SIF Foundation President Joseph Sciame recognized the past year’s donation of $200,000 in response to the 2016 Central Italy earthquake. The donation was made to the Andrea Bocelli Foundation to go toward the rebuilding of a kindergarten and elementary school in Muccia, a town located in the Marche region of Italy. Mr. Sciame then presented a special video in which Maestro Andrea Bocelli and his wife, Veronica, personally thanked the Sons of Italy Foundation for its support.

The SIF’s annual NELA Gala has raised more than $33 million and has hosted many distinguished individuals. Past attendees have included U.S. presidents, members of Congress and the Cabinet, and foreign diplomats. Previous SIF honorees include President Bill Clinton; President George W. Bush; Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano; U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito; former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; former Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne; science & medicine luminaries Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Gallo, and Dr. Michael Sofia; entertainers Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Annette Funicello, and Gary Sinise; and sports legends Mario Andretti, Geno Auriemma, and Tommy LaSorda.

Found in 1959, the SIF has contributed $165 million to scholarships, medical research, disaster relief efforts, cultural projects, veterans’ causes, and other special projects. The proceeds from the NELA Gala help fund its philanthropy.

SOURCE: Sons of Italy Foundation

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