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Archbishop of Washington returns to Pittsburgh for 50th Medallion Ball

| Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
John Altdorfer
St. Lucy's Auxiliary president Mary Lee Gannon (center) with event co-chairs Mary Frances Dean Johnson (left) and Julia Sheridan Gleason (right) during the VIP Reception of the St. Lucy's Auxiliary to the Blind 50th Medallion Ball at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. Nov. 29. 2013.

“It's a joy to be back,” said Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. “My first Medallion Ball was 25 years ago. I was so impressed by the young ladies who did all that volunteer work.”

His Eminence's presence during the 50th Medallion Ball at the Wyndham Grand, Downtown, was just one of the impressive aspects of an evening that saw 107 young women being presented with their St. Joan of Arc Medallion by BishopDavid Zubik. The event follows the mission of St. Lucy's Auxiliary to the Blind to encourage a lifetime of volunteer service.

Among these dynamos, Amanda Rulis, daughter of Christopher and Lisa Rulis, received high marks for clocking in a whopping 800 hours of volunteer service — 650 more than what was required of each candidate.

“At first, it was my mom,” Amanda admitted. “But I realized I loved working with all the kids at Children's Hospital. It made me really happy.”

It was not unusual to find present candidates flanked by their mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers — all past recipients of the medallion. This practice included St. Lucy's president, Mary Lee Gannon, who has been involved in the Medallion Ball since she was presented in 1977.

Prior to the main event, nerves were slightly frayed backstage: “I'm a little nervous about the waltz and just keeping time and doing all the turns. But the rest, I'm excited about,” said Imani Herring. But the gents serving as escorts seemed to have it all under control.

“I feel like Prince Charming,” said Ryan Deasy, walking with Sarah Rieker on his arm.

Also present on Nov. 29 were Dame of MaltaKatherine Freyvogel and Knight of MaltaTighe Freyvogel, Dame of MaltaHelen Hanna Casey, ball chairwoman Mary Frances Dean Johnson and co-chairwoman Julia Sheridan Gleason, as well as Medallion Girls Danielle Clark, Hannah Newman, Megan Reilly, Rebecca Donahue, Sarah Fieldhammer, Gillian Giba, Joelle Swyka, Kendall Robinson, Lelah McCarthy, Mary Frac, Mia Cuccaro and Keeley Carson.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at or 412-380-8515.

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