ABMDR Walkathon Marked By Strong Youth Participation, Fresh Support For Research

A scene from the ABMDR Walkathon

L.A. Armenian schools, organizations, and student associations walk for life-saving mission

LOS ANGELES—On Saturday, October 20, hundreds of Angelenos took part in Walk of Life 2012, the seventh annual walkathon of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.

The highly anticipated event drew strong youth participation, with teams from several area Armenian schools, organizations, student associations, and youth clubs in attendance. Also participating were several dignitaries, including elected officials and community leaders.

A 6-K walk-run event, Walk of Life helped raise awareness of health issues while raising funds for vital research in immunogenetics, in the ongoing quest to match bone marrow donors with patients suffering from life-threatening blood-related illnesses worldwide.

Walk of Life kicked off with a festive opening ceremony at the plaza of Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, in Glendale. In her opening remarks, Walkathon Committee co-chair Dr. Stella Baghdasarian said, “With your presence here today, all of you not only give us the strength and determination to continue our quest to find donor matches for our patients, but, most importantly, to show them that they’re not alone in their fight for their lives.”

Dr. Baghdasarian acknowledged the presence of the event’s Honorary Chairpersons and their representatives, including Prelate Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, Primate Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese, Minister Joseph D. Matossian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, Armenian Consul General Grigor Hovhannisyan, Congressman Adam Schiff, State Senator Carol Liu, State Assembly member Mike Gatto, Los Angeles Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero, Burbank Mayor Dave Golonski, Glendale City Council member Laura Friedman, and Glendale Unified School District President Greg Krikorian.

Dr. Baghdasarian conveyed special gratitude to Glendale Memorial, a Lifetime Supporter of ABMDR, and the hospital’s vice-president of Business Development, David Mauss.

On her part, Walkathon Committee co-chair Dr. Karoline Rostamian thanked the numerous Armenian youth teams from Armenian schools and universities, as well as the AGBU, AYF, and ACYO, for their volunteer work and participation in the event. Dr. Rostamian also acknowledged the continued support of the US Army Armenian Veterans before inviting Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of ABMDR, to the podium.

“With every step that you’ll be taking today, you’ll give new hope to a patient who is desperately seeking a life-saving bone marrow transplant,” Dr. Jordan said. “It’s thanks to all of you that ABMDR continues to grow strong. I would like to thank Glendale Memorial Hospital, without whose crucial support our work would not have been possible. Glendale Memorial has sponsored Walk of Life for the past seven years, and supported our various projects for the past 12 years.”

Next Dr. Jordan introduced Peter, a former cancer patient who has undergone a bone marrow transplant through an ABMDR donor match. Following Peter’s inspirational remarks, Dr. Jordan invited Glendale Mayor and longtime ABMDR supporter Frank Quintero to address the audience.

Quintero, who has visited Armenia and witnessed first-hand the work of registry at its Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan, said, “From the moment I met Dr. Jordan some years ago, I knew she was on a life-saving crusade and we all had to get onboard. There’s no substitute for what we’re doing here today: which is to raise money for research, and reaffirm our commitment to healthy living and wellness.”

Among the walkathon participants, many of whom are registered with ABMDR as potential bone marrow donors, was Lucinee Nazerian, a young woman recently identified as a matched donor for a patient in Australia. “Right now I’m waiting for the final go-ahead, and very much looking forward to being of help to this patient,” Nazerian said.

The invocation of the walkathon was performed by Father Vazken Atmajian, representing the Prelacy; fathers Mampre Kesabyan and Haroutioun Tachejian, representing the Diocese; and Minister Joseph D. Matossian.

The walkathon was preceded by an energetic warm-up session led by a team from Total Woman. Subsequently the hundreds of participants embarked on the walkathon, looping along a city trajectory that passed by the Armenian Consulate on the corner of Central Avenue and Lexington Boulevard. Consul General Grigor Hovhannisyan, another longtime supporter of ABMDR, warmly saluted the procession.

The walk concluded at the Glendale Memorial plaza, where the community celebration, featuring food, music, and dance, continued into the afternoon. At this time, participants had the opportunity to join the ranks of ABMDR at volunteer-staffed information and recruitment tents.

The program included an awards ceremony. The Kaloostian Family Team (comprising Dr. William Kaloostian, father; and siblings and doctors Carolyn, Paul, and Shane) was awarded for having raised the most funds. The Kaloostian Family Team had joined the walkathon in memory of wife and mother Dr. Aida Shirinian Kaloostian, who was a major ABMDR supporter as well as a member of its Board. For the second year in a row, the Chamlian School Team received a trophy for having the highest number of participants, and Glendale Memorial Hospital was awarded for being the major sponsor of Walk of Life for the past seven years. Rima Matevosian accepted the award on behalf of the hospital.

About the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry: Established in 1999, ABMDR, a nonprofit organization, helps Armenians worldwide survive life-threatening blood-related illnesses by recruiting and matching donors to those requiring bone marrow stem cell transplants. To date, the registry has recruited over 22,000 donors in 16 countries across four continents, identified 2,135 patients, and facilitated 13 bone marrow transplants.

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