The 50th Medallion Ball held at the Wyndham Grand


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Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., returned to Pittsburgh for the 50th anniversary of the Medallion Ball Friday night. Having attended his first Medallion Ball 25 years ago, he was happy to join Bishop David Zubik in the receiving lines at both the Bishop's Reception and the general reception at the Wyndham Grand.

The ballroom was awash in white gowns and white ties and tails as the high school seniors and their escorts filled the room for the promenade and waltz. The benefit for St. Lucy's Auxiliary to the Blind, which supports Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, honored 107 young ladies with the Joan of Arc medallion for doing a minimum of 150 hours of volunteer service.

Going above and way beyond was Amanda Rulis, who logged an amazing 800 hours. All that giving helped her decide that she wants to be a nurse. Another remarkable Medallion girl, Gillian Giba, is legally blind and a client of BVRS, but managed to put in her hours at Horses for Hope, a therapeutic horseback riding program. This year Joelle Swyka, another blind girl, was asked to be an honorary candidate by Helen Hanna Casey, Annie Hanna Cestra and Annie Hanna Engel. She was the speaker and award recipient at the Vision of Hope luncheon earlier this year.

Nearly 1,300 friends and family came to celebrate the efforts of all those involved. WTAE's Sally Wiggin emceed, announcing each presentee, including her colleague Mike Clark's daughter, Danielle Clark, with her escort Brian Wlahofsky. Another veteran of the ball, band leader Rick Purcell, kept everyone on the dance floor throughout the evening, including St. Lucy's president Mary Lee Gannon with fiance Arnie Von Waldow and last year's chair, Jan Kubiska, with Peter.

Among the honor guard were Dame of Malta Katherine Freyvogel and Knight of Malta Tighe Freyvogel (his mother, the late Sue Freyvogel, was the first ball chair in 1964 with the late Anne Hanna).

Since that first ball 4,400 women have volunteered more than 500,000 hours. In half a century St. Lucy's has donated $3,155,366 to the blind and visually impaired with the help of the ball. Chairing this year was Mary Frances Dean Johnson (with Daniel Paul) with co-chair Julia Gleason (with John Robert).

 


Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2613 or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pasheridan.

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