ABMDR Gala Marks Milestones in Life-Saving Mission

ABMDR board members and supporters

Annual celebration attended by hundreds of supporters, including elected officials and healthcare leaders

GLENDALE—Hope of Life, the 14th annual Gala of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR), took place on the night of July 14 at the Glendale Hilton, in Glendale, California. The highly anticipated community event celebrated major milestones that were reached throughout the past year, and honored many individuals and establishments for their outstanding support of the registry’s cause.

Over 400 attended Hope of Life, which kicked off with a cocktail hour and silent auction in the foyer and terrace of the hall.

The evening’s main program began with the opening remarks of Tatevik Ekezian Madjarian, who acknowledged the presence of numerous dignitaries, elected officials, and healthcare leaders. They included Arch. Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese; Joseph Matossian, Minister of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; Father Vazken Atmajian, representing Arch. Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy; California State Senator Carol Liu; representatives of Congressman Adam Schiff, State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich; Glendale City Councilman Zareh Sinanyan; Glendale Unified School District president Greg Krikorian; Glendale Memorial Hospital president Jack Ivie and vice-president of Business Development David Mauss; Glendale Memorial Health Foundation vice-president Wayne Herron; Dr. Stuart Siegel and Dr. Neena Kapoor of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Dr. Evgeni Sokurenko, Professor at the Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, and Dr. Arpenik Avagyan; and, representing the event’s major sponsors, Ramella Markarian and Peter Baker of Glendale Adventist Medical Center, and Mike Sarian of Prime Healthcare Services.

Tatevik Ekezian Madjarian also welcomed representatives of several community organizations, including the Armenian-American Medical Society, Armenian Nurses Association, Armenian Relief Society, Armenian Cycling Association, and Armenian-American Chamber of Commerce, as well as Chamlian School principal Vazken Madenlian.

Next to take the podium was Gala chairperson Naz Atikian, who thanked the attendees for their “unflinching support, year after year.” “We are here today because of you,” Atikian said.

As he took the stage following Atikian’s address, Master of Ceremonies and ABMDR Board of Directors chair Mark Geragos, Esquire, cast a glance at the history of the registry. “It’s truly amazing that this organization started off with only a handful of donors 14 years ago,” he said. “Today it has over 24,000 potential bone marrow donors in 18 countries. Growth of this scale has been made possible by not only relentless hard work, but also the extraordinary vision of the woman I’m about to introduce, Dr. Frieda Jordan, who is the heart and soul of ABMDR.”

After being greeted with a standing ovation, Dr. Jordan began her address by reflecting on the evening’s theme. “Hope of Life: yes, there is no better way to describe the work we do,” she said.

“Each of you who has volunteered time and expertise at a recruitment drive, or helped organize fundraising events, well knows that striving to save lives, with precious time ticking away, is hard and stressful work,” Dr. Jordan continued. “But we do what is hard for one reason: to make it easier on our patients and their families, who bear such physical and emotional pain. I reflect on this moment with gratitude, and thank you all for making what we do a little easier.”

Next, Dr. Jordan recognized the 2013 ABMDR Award recipients and the evening’s major sponsors, Glendale Adventist Medical Center and Prime Healthcare Services. She also conveyed her gratitude to the registry’s Lifetime Supporters; the Western Diocese for ongoing outreach support; His Holiness Karekin II for conferring on her the St. Nerses the Graceful Medal; and the registry’s numerous volunteers, benefactors, committee chairs, and the staff of the ABMDR Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan for advancing the organization’s cause.

Before concluding her remarks, Dr. Jordan announced that in September 2012 the registry held its first-ever Walkathon on the East Coast, in Boston, and thanked the Kardashian family for helping raise public awareness of the ABMDR mission, as well as the Armenian Cyclist Association for dedicating its most recent annual bike ride to raising funds for the registry.

Afterwards Dr. Jordan invited to the podium Dr. Sevak Avagyan, executive director of ABMDR and head of its Stem Cell Harvesting Center.

“When people ask about the evolution of ABMDR, we often respond with numbers,” Dr. Avagyan said. “To date, we tell them, the registry has recruited over 24,000 donors in 18 countries across four continents, identified 2,135 patients, and facilitated 16 bone marrow transplants. But our fight to find life-saving donor-patient matches is not merely about numbers. As importantly, we continue to increase the quality of the services we provide for patients. Thus, for instance, we have made significant enhancements to our Stem Cell Harvesting Center; we have purchased equipment and provided training for Armenia’s — and the Caucasus region’s — first auto-transplantation procedure; we have adopted a new test with allows us to gauge a patient’s sensitivity to chemotherapy drugs; and we have begun to implement immunophenotyping, which is a major step forward for Armenia in blood-disease diagnostics, prediction, and treatment.”

Subsequently Dr. Jordan invited this year’s honorees to the stage. The Woman of the Year and Man of the Year Award were bestowed on Amy Boyadjian and Dr. Evgeni Sokurenko, respectively; the Volunteer of the Year Awards were bestowed on Hilda Gourdikian and Harmik Baghdasarian; the Armenian-American Medical Society (AAMS) of California and its Ladies’ Auxiliary Committee received the Organization of the Year Award, with AAMS president Dr. Vicken Sepilian and Ladies’ Auxiliary Committee chair Ramella Markarian accepting the award; the ABMDR Comedy Night Committee was named Team of the Year; and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles received the Establishment of the Year Award, which was accepted by Dr. Stuart Siegel and Dr. Neena Kapoor.

In 2012, Drs. Siegel and Kapoor were instrumental in providing vital physician trainings to help ABMDR create the necessary infrastructure and skill base for starting to perform autotransplantation procedures in Armenia.

In his acceptance remarks, Dr. Siegel said, “I have never seen an organization, such as ABMDR, come together so rapidly, identify a mission so clearly, and make it happen. You all deserve a tremendous amount of applause for doing something that I don’t think I’ve seen any organization pull off so impressively.”

In addition to the main awards, special plaques were bestowed on Glendale Adventist Medical Center, accepted by vice-president of Business Development Peter Baker; Mike Sarian of Prime Healthcare Services; Arpine Zohrabyan, who has helped save a child’s life by becoming a matched bone marrow stem cell donor; and Andrew Nazarian, a high-school senior who had a key role in the realization of the Armenian Cycling Association’s bike ride benefiting ABMDR — the 136-mile Glendale-to-San Diego ride, called “Cycle for Life,” raised close to $10,000.

During the award ceremony, Tatevik Ekezian Madjarian read a letter of congratulation by patient Cici, and accepted a plaque of recognition on her behalf.

Throughout the evening, the audience was treated to spirited performances by violinist Allen and singer Arthur (known as Mr. X).

The Gala drew to a close with the announcement of this year’s ABMDR lottery winners.

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 24,000 donors in 18 countries across four continents, identified 2,135 patients, and facilitated 16 bone marrow transplants.

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