In the course of a modest ceremony held on 14 October 2010, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Karolos Papoulias, inaugurated the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis – ELPIDA Children’s Oncology Unit”, His Beatitude Hieronymos II, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece performed the blessing of the building complex and so, “ELPIDA”, The Association of Friends of Children with Cancer, fulfilled the promise made to the Greek people to build the first oncology hospital for children in Greece.

Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, President of the Association and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, could barely conceal her emotion when she addressed the attendees, saying: “Three years ago, in April 2007, in this same place which was then a plot of land, laying the foundation stone for the first Oncology Hospital for Children in our country we made a promise: that we would do everything within our power to have this hospital built and in operation in the shortest possible time, a hospital that for many children would constitute their only hope for life. It is with particular emotion today, on behalf of “ELPIDA”, that I turn it over, equipped and ready, to the parents and the children who need it; as I promised.

I hope this hospital is a stepping-stone to victory for all the children who cross its threshold, and I promise them that we will always be by their side in their most difficult fight, the fight for life… As of today our country becomes stronger in the battle against cancer. Because today we are handing over to the new generation of our country as well as the next generations, a model paediatric oncology unit, of 14,911 square meters, 5 buildings with a capacity of 138 beds, equipped with the most contemporary infrastructure, the most advanced equipment that science and technology have to offer and the most experienced medical staff; a place that will become an actual bastion for all those children who will need to fight for their lives in it…”

With a warm round of applause, leading personalities from the worlds of literature and the arts, scientists, ministers and former ministers, members of Parliament, ambassadors, prominent members of the business and social community, donors and friends as well as the members of the Association, representatives of the mass media, children who have been cured and their parents and many others present reiterated the “ELPIDA” Association’s deepest “credo” that: The life of even one child is worth fighting for!

The Minister of Health, Nutrition and Sports, Mr. Andreas Loverdos, was the first to address a warm greeting: “Instead of congratulations,” said Mr Loverdos, addressing Mrs Vardinoyannis, “we owe you acknowledgement, since all the cost and efforts were yours… With your magnificent example you invite us to overcome the weaknesses we have as a State and to support this work by providing high level health services and we will do so…”

Mrs Fofi Gennimata, as the Deputy Minister for Education, also addressed warm greetings, emphasising that: “In such a difficult period of our country, you, Mrs Vardinoyannis, are handing over to the State a diamond, which is a model for all Europe; a jewel able to give hope… Today is a day of joy and emotion… Nothing would have happened though were it not for the guiding spirit –of Mrs Marianna Vardinoyannis, who mobilised and inspired everyone to support this work…”

Finally, Mr Emmanouil Papasavas, Director of the “Aghia Sophia” Children’s Hospital, of which the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis -ELPIDA Children’s Oncology Unit” will form part both administratively and operationally, declared: “Since 1993, Mrs Vardinoyannis and the “ELPIDA” Association have been actively engaged in a fight to restore the health of the children who suffer from cancer and today they are turning over to us this magnificent in every respect edifice…

I promise that myself, personally, as well as the entire medical and nursing staff will make the most of it. I would once more like to thank Mrs Vardinoyannis for her selfless contribution to the children who suffer, also the fact that she herself contributed financially to covering a large part of the cost of constructing the Unit as well as the cost of supplies and the installation of the medical-technological equipment…”

Following the blessing and the cutting of the inauguration ribbon, the attendees were taken on a guided tour of the new hospital where they had the opportunity to see for themselves what Mrs Vardinoyannis had emphasised in her talk just before:

“… our criterion in planning the Hospital was the most modern scientific specifications and our basic concern was the protection of the sensitive children souls. In this way, the children’s journey towards their cure becomes a childhood voyage in such a hospital. Every building is a different continent. Each of its corners is a different country. With paintings and images of monuments and children-friendly figures, we attempt a fairy tale that looks for ways to keep a smile on their lips even in their darkest hours. This aesthetic approach as well as the way it is rendered in the various areas of the hospital is considered a global originality and there is nothing like this in the whole of Europe, as far as we know …”

Comments of admiration, congratulations and wishes sealed this special day as the guests took their leave. Once again, Mrs Vardinoyannis took the opportunity to thank them for their solidarity and support for the work of “ELPIDA” which completed 20 years of action this year.

The official guests to the opening of the “MARIANNA V. VARDINOYANNIS -ELPIDA Children’s Oncology Unit” were greeted by Mr Vardis Vardinoyannis along with his wife Marianna, while the former First Lady of France Mrs Anne-Aymone Giscard d’Estaing, Professor David Khayat and his wife and Professor Andreas Tzakis arrived from France and the United States to attend the inauguration.

Also attending the event were the wife of the Prime Minister, Mrs Ada Papandreou, and the wife of the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Georgia Samara; the Ministers: Giorgos Petalotis, Andreas Loverdos, Yannis Ragoussis, Ioannis Diamantidis, Marilisa Xenogianakopoulou, Louka Katseli, Christos Papoutsis; the Deputy Ministers: Fofi Gennimata, Panagiotis Beglitis, Nikos Sifounakis; the Under-Ministers Milena Apostolaki, Vassilis Kegkeroglou,

Anna Dalara along with her husband Giorgos Dalaras, Christos Aidonis, Manolis Othonas, Michalis Timosidis; the representative of the New Democracy Party Marios Salmas and the President of L.A.O.S. (People’s Orthodox Rally) Mr Giorgos Karatzaferis, the Mayor of Athens Nikitas Kaklamanis; the Members of Parliament Dimitris Sioufas, Manolis Kefalogiannis, Dora Bakogianni, Miltiadis Papaioanou, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Christos Protopapas, Athanasios Tsouras, Olga Kefalogianni and Akis Tsochatzopoulos; the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Hellenic Republic Constantinos Georgiou; their excellencies the Ambassadors of Azerbaijan, Egypt, Albania, France, Germany, Japan, Croatia, Cyprus, Montenegro, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sweden, Syria and Chile; the academicians Christos Zerefos, Constantinos Stefanis, Grigoris Skalkeas; the Director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit of “Aghia Sophia” Children’s Hospital, Dr Stelios Grafakos, the Governor of the “Aglaia Kyriakou” Children’s Hospital Athanassios Binis; the honorary members of the “ELPIDA” Association,

Irene Athanassiadou, Kostas Gitonas, Eleni Bistika, Fani Palli-Petralia and Katy Sioufa; the donours Spyros Metaxas along with his daughter Laura Metaxa, Pavlos Ioannidis along with his wife, representing the “Alexander S. Onassis” Foundation, Andreas Martinis, President of the Red Cross, Michalis Sallas and his wife Sofia Staikou, Ilias Tsigkas, President of Mega Channel, Polly Gioti, Leonidas Bobolas, Andronike Galliaki, Irene Zegkini and Theodora Symvoulidou.

Also present were the famous members of the show business community: Nana Mouschouri along with her husband Andre Chapelle, the Messenger of “ELPIDA” Sakis Rouvas and his wife Katia Zygouli, Nonika Galinea, Despina Vandi et al. Representing the world of publishing were Nikos Hadzinikolaou with his wife Christie, Antonis Lyberis with his wife Elena and Makis Kouris with his wife Angeliki.

The Vardinoyannis family was represented by Mr Giannis V. Vardinoyannis with his wife Melissa, Mr Nikos V. Vardinoyannis with his wife Alexia, Mr Giorgos I. Vardinoyannis, Mr Demosthenes Vardinoyannis and Mr Pavlos Vardinoyannis with his wife Gina.

The entire Board of Directors of “ELPIDA” was present: Eleni Samara-Konstantakatou, Ino Konstantopoulou, Katy Metaxotou, Anna Papagianni, Viki Filippou, Katy Filippidou, Katy Voutsela, Melina Daskalaki, Ioanna Gelestathi, Dina Pritsiveli, Christina Tsatsaki, Georgina Ellina, Elly Tzanetatou and Elena Charlafti, as well as many members of the “ELPIDA” Association: Zeta Antsakli along with her husband Aris Antsaklis, Anna Panagiotarea, Annie Petraki, Olga Tremi, Beki Stravelaki, Dimitra Filippou, Lisa Evert, Veta Tsoukala, et al.

The coordinator of the event was the Vice-President of the European Parliament Mrs Rodi Kratsa.

On the occasion of the inauguration, the Academy of Athens announced that its renowned Foundation of Medical and Biological Research, which disposes of the 29th recognised umbilical cord-placenta blood bank, offers “ELPIDA” primary haematopoietic cells for transplantation free of charge.