ABMDR’s Life-Saving Mission Celebrated at Sweet 16 Gala

LOS ANGELES—Close to 400 supporters, including community leaders, elected officials, and representatives of health organizations, joined together to celebrate the Sweet 16 of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR). Match for Life, the 16th annual Gala of the registry, took place on the evening of August 23, at the Glendale Hilton, in Glendale, California.

In addition to functioning as a jubilant testament to the worldwide Armenian community’s support of ABMDR’s life-saving mission, the Gala served as an occasion to mark the registry’s latest accomplishments. These include ABMDR’s hosting of the prestigious EFI Educational Conference in Yerevan, for the second time since 2011; the recruitment of over 2,500 potential bone marrow donors in the past year; and the ongoing growth and medical advances of ABMDR’s Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan, through pioneering technologies and programs such as cord-blood banking. The Gala was made possible by the major sponsorship of Glendale Adventist Medical Center and the Histogenetics company.

Following a cocktail hour and silent auction in the foyer and terrace of the Hilton’s Glendale Ballroom, the evening’s main program began inside the hall, with welcoming remarks delivered in Armenian and English by Gala Committee co-chairs Salpi Mankerian and Amy Boyadjian, respectively. “This year has profound significance for our registry, as it marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide,” Boyadjian said. “As an organization dedicated to a singular vision of saving lives, ABMDR embodies the Armenian nation’s will to endure, beat the odds and survive, and thrive once again.”

In his opening remarks, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Montebello Mayor Jack Hadjinian, said, “It’s an honor to serve as MC for such a great organization” and joked, “Of course I had to apply for a special visa to make the long and arduous journey from Montebello to Glendale.” Hadjinian went on to acknowledge the presence of several dignitaries and guests of honor, as well as representatives of community institutions and health organizations, including Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, Father Dajad Yardemian of the Western Diocese, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Deputy Consul General of Armenia Valery Mkrtoumian, Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, Burbank Mayor Bob Furtos, Glendale Adventist Medical Center President and CEO Kevin Roberts and Vice President of Business Development Ramella Markarian, Marie Filipian and Wayne Herron of Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, and Dr. Neena Kapoor of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Following the invocation by Archbishop Mardirossian, the evening’s keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Frieda Jordan, President of ABMDR.

“Sixteen years ago, the motivation for launching ABMDR was a little girl struck with leukemia who desperately needed a bone marrow match to survive,” Dr. Jordan said. “The motivation for going on to expand our work across the globe comes down to a simple stance, which is this: for a peaceful and creative nation that lost close to 2 million brothers and sisters to racial and religious hatred, every single Armenian life is all the more precious to save.”

“In our 16 years, together we have created a force of unity, and today we have an ambitious goal: to increase the number of our donors to 30,000 by 2016,” Dr. Jordan continued. “We know we can do this, given the hard work, determination, and generosity of dedicated people around the world. We thank each and every one of you for helping us recruit 27,000 donors across four continents to date, receiving 3,000 patient referrals, and facilitating 20 transplants.”

After thanking many of ABMDR’s growing corps of supporters, volunteers, committees, and sponsors individually, Dr. Jordan was joined by Jack Hadjinian on stage to honor to the registry’s 2015 award recipients.

The ABMDR Woman of the Year Award was conferred on Lara Yeretsian, Esquire, and the Man of the Year Award was presented to Mardy Kazarians, PhD. The Volunteer of the Year Awards were bestowed on Stella Baghdasarian, DDS, Narreh Ghazarian, and Carlo Manjikian. The Team of the Year Award was conferred on past and present chairpersons of the ABMDR Walkathon Committee, comprising Steve Artinian, Taleen Khatchadourian, Evelyn Baghdasraian Barkhoudarian, MD, Karoline Rostamian, PhD, Stella Baghdasarian, DDS, Christina Ashjian, PharmD, BCPS, Sharlene Gozalians, DrPH, MPH, CHES, and Salpi Aprahamian. The ABMDR Organization of the Year Award was conferred on the Trex Fraternity Los Angeles Chapter, as represented by Chapter Master Johnny Yaldezian and longtime Trex member and ABMDR supporter George Titizian; and the Business of the Year Award was presented to Le Papillon by Naz.

Several award recipients delivered inspiring speeches which touched on their personal experiences as supporters and volunteers. The speakers included ABMDR Board member Lara Yeretsian, who has been a driving force behind the registry’s enormously popular annual Comedy Night; Dr. Mardy Kazarians, a staunch supporter of the registry since its very inception; Carlo Manjikian, a veteran of the ABMDR Walkathon and Comedy Night committees; and Johnny Yaldezian of the Trex Fraternity, which has supported ABMDR through its annual golf tournaments.

“I’m very touched by this honor,” Lara Yeretsian said as she received her award. “As a mom, the most important thing for me is the health of my children and my family. For this reason, ABMDR has been super close to my heart. I have worked for this organization for many years and I will continue to do so, because it is a very important job and I take it very seriously. My wish tonight is for everyone here to donate, donate, donate. When I say ‘donate,’ I don’t just mean with your money. Yes, that’s important too, but I also mean donate physically, become donors. You would be saving a life. People ask me, ‘So how many lives have you saved?’ The answer to that question is, we save lives every single minute of the day. Every time somebody registers with ABMDR, the likelihood of finding a bone marrow match becomes higher and better. So, please, become donors, and donate.”

“I encourage all of you to participate in this very noble cause,” Dr. Mardy Kazarians said as he spoke of the mission of ABMDR. “You can participate in many different ways: with your technical expertise, your energy, your time, and, of course, financially. Last year, my wife and I were very fortunate to be in Yerevan when ABMDR hosted the EFI conference. You should’ve seen the caliber of the scientists from all over the world who participated in that meeting. We also visited the ABMDR Stem Cell Harvesting Center, where Dr. Jordan was kind enough to give us a tour. This is a world-class center, with many successes to its credit. With such wonderful achievements, ABMDR is a testament to the fact that we, as a nation, are an active, dynamic member of the community of civilized and advanced societies.”

“I’m living proof that bone marrow transplants save lives,” Carlo Manjikian said. “Six years ago, I was diagnosed with leukemia. I was lucky: my sister, Lara, was a perfect match for a transplant, and she saved my life. Most people who need a bone marrow transplant must turn to the registry for a match. That’s why the registry must expand by raising funds and tissue-typing all those who volunteer as donors, in order to save lives. Tonight I appeal to you to please help us raise funds for such an important organization, so that it continues to offer the hope of life to all those who aren’t as fortunate as I was in finding a match within their own family. The more donors we have, the more chances we have to save lives.”

During the “Be an Angel, Save a Life” section of the program, a presentation was made to familiarize the attendees with ABMDR’s Stem Cell Harvesting Center and Laboratory. The presentation was followed by an appeal to provide financial support in helping ABMDR reach its goal of having 30,000 registered and tissue-typed bone marrow donors by 2016.

Remarks were also delivered by Deputy Consul General Valery Mkrtoumian, who praised ABMDR as a grassroots, genuinely pan-national organization dedicated to the health and well-being of Armenians across the globe.

The Gala program featured instrumental and vocal performances by young musicians, including Armen and Andre. The latter gave the debut performance of a song which he had newly composed.

In the concluding segment of the event, the 2015 ABMDR Lottery winners were announced as the young ABMDR Angels drew the lots.

About the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry: Established in 1999, ABMDR, a nonprofit organization, helps Armenians and non-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 27,000 donors in 24 countries across four continents, identified 3,000 patients, and facilitated 20 bone marrow transplants.

For more information, call (323) 663-3609 or visit abmdr.am.

Photos courtesy of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.


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