Chicago hosts UNICO mid-year conference

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With the enthusiastic support of Chicago businessman and UNICO National president Mike Veselka, the Mid-Year Conference of UNICO National was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel on March 28 to 29.

They came to Chicago from all parts of our country (obviously not in search of a more temperate climate) to enjoy the down-to-earth spirit of our proud city. Some 175 members arrived from New Jersey to California and from Texas to Pennsylvania to conduct the business of UNICO National, the country’s largest Italian American Service organization.

The weekends’ events began with a dinner for early arrivals hosted by Past National President Anthony Fornelli on Thursday evening at Capri restaurant in Berwyn. Friday saw the commencement of two days of UNICO business, with committee meetings centered on getting the message out to the general public that UNICO is dedicated to bettering lives around the world.

The meetings addressed such topics as revising the internal structure of UNICO; nominating award recipients to be honored at the 2014 convention in August; formulating final arrangements for the convention; selecting scholarship awardees; and acting upon grant applications aimed at feeding and sheltering the homeless, advancing Italian-American studies, and aiding cancer and Cooley’s Anemia research.

On Saturday, the Board of Governors of UNICO met in general session to receive committee reports and to act on matters affecting the goals of UNICO National. President Mike Veselka presided over a session comprised of the national officers and members of the executive committee and board of governors. Representing Illinois at the meeting were Regional Governor Paul Domico and Illinois District Governor Jack Cerone.

On Saturday evening, the Illinois delegation hosted a gala dinner at Elmcrest Banquet Hall featuring the Marconi Award Ceremony, a prestigious award bestowed annually since 1995 upon scientists of Italian descent. This year’s recipient was Dr. Salvatore Di Mauro, professor of neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Di Mauro also chairs basic research in the Department of Neurology at Columbia. He is a world -enowned researcher in the field of neuromuscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy as well as metabolic disorders. He is the author of more than 540 scientific papers and, he has earned countless awards from professional medical societies, universities and governments worldwide.

The members feasted on gastronomical delights created by Al Biancalana, a member of the Chicago West Suburban Chapter of UNICO, and pastries from Palermo Bakery, before concluding with praise for the hospitality provided by the Illinois chapters of UNICO.

UNICO National was founded on Oct. 10, 1922, in Waterbury, Conn. A group of 15 men led by Dr. Anthony P. Vastola came together to create what has become a very special organization formed to assist those in need in communities throughout America. It was Dr. Vastola’s dream to create an Italian-American service organization to engage in charitable works, support higher education and perform patriotic deeds. Your interest and support is invited.

To find out how you can become a part of UNICO provide support to the presidency of Mike Veselka, contact Richard Caifano at




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