Events at Gardens of the World and Comedy Store Raise Funds for Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry

LOS ANGELES–Naz Atikian, stunning in her tailored clothes and dazzling jewelry of her own design , doesn’t have much in common with Sam Tripoli, a young comedian with a penchant for old jeans and a sweatshirt. On the surface, anyway. But look into their hearts and you will find the same passion for helping others, and one cause in particular. This fall each in their own way put their talents, resources, and passion to work on behalf of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR), and helped raise funds for the organization, whose mission is to ensure that every ethnic Armenian suffering from a life threatening blood-related illness is able to find a genetically suitable bone marrow stem cell match. On October 29 over 150 gathered at the Gardens of the World in Thousand Oaks for a luncheon hosted by Naz to benefit the ABMDR. Prior to enjoying a lavish spread under a shady pavilion, guests roamed the silent auction tables to bid on items ranging from jewelry to tea sets, and bought raffle tickets for a variety of gift baskets. The gardens were made available by the Hogan family, and Naz provided for all the expenses of the luncheon; her generosity ensured that all ticket sales and purchases directly benefited the ABMDR. The event was conceived, organized and executed by Naz, with the help of several key volunteers. Following an introduction by Hilda Sarkisyan, in which she shared her personal story of the pain, hope and relief of having a child with a life-threatening blood disease, ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan expressed her gratitude to those in attendance, "guardian angels who spread your wings across the world to help those who need us." She noted that, "’The Gardens of the World’ is a fitting place to gather on behalf of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry. Our organization seeks out its own "gardens of the world" — recruiting donors all over the globe that may be harvested to provide life-saving stem cells for patients in need." As a token of appreciation, she then presented Naz Atikian with a plaque on behalf of the ABMDR. Just one week after the luncheon, the ABMDR changed its venue from a sunny day in a garden to a dark night at a club, attracting over 350 supporters to the famous Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Lara Yeretsian, volunteer organizer for the event, was overwhelmed by the response, noting that the 4th Annual Laughter for Life event "has become so popular that it was sold out days before." Sam Tripoli, a nationally recognized comedian who performs at the Comedy Store, was the propelling force behind the effort to have the benefit at the Comedy Store initially. Sam’s thirteen-year old cousin, Alique Topalian, was struck with leukemia nine years ago. Helping organize this benefit by arranging a line-up of comedians who would perform at the Comedy Store was his way of showing appreciation for the ABMDR, which was established out of frustrations his family and Dr. Jordan experienced when they were seeking bone marrow for his cousin to save her life. At this year’s event, seven performers volunteered their talents — Sam Tripoli, Dau Davidoff, Ahmad Ahmed, Steve Rennazzisi, Darren Carter, Ara Bazil and John Hoogazian. Mitzy Shore owner of the Comedy Store, graciously made her club available at no charge for the evening’s event. This summer the ABMDR celebrated its 5th anniversary with a series of events including a fundraising walk-a-thon, gala dinner, and concert, drawing thousands of supporters. The momentum has continued to grow since then, with a particular increase among young people who want to help the organization recruit donors and find matches for patients in need. A key method of treating people with life-threatening blood diseases is through bone marrow/stem cell transplants from a donor. On average, it takes 200 donors to find a precise match for one patient. Each donor’s blood or saliva sample is tested to see if there is a genetically suitable match for a patient in need. In order to treat Armenian patients, bone marrow transplants require compatible tissue types that match the genetic makeup of the patient, which is most likely to come from other Armenian donors. Since the ABMDR’s founding five years ago, over 12,000 donors have been recruited, more than 600 search requests have been received and processed, 400 potential matches have been identified, and — most importantly — six bone marrow and stem cell transplants have been facilitated in Armenia, the United States, and Europe. The ABMDR is a member of the World Marrow Donor Association and Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide and, this Spring, became the first laboratory of its kind in the whole region and the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet republics) to receive accreditation from the highly respected European Federation of Immunogenetics (EFI). Those who wish to learn more about the Registry may contact ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan at 3111 Los Feliz Blvd., Suite 206, Los Angeles; by calling (323) 663-3609; or by e-mailing abmdrla@sbcglobal.net or frieda.jordan@att.net; on the web at abmdr.am .Fun

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