ABMDR Supporters Celebrate Decade Of Community Outreach And Pledge To Help Expand Registry

From left: a consular aide, Consul General Krikor Hovanessian, Armond Mehdikiani, Dr. Frieda Jordan, and Ramella Markarian. Photo by Alleko Boghoskhanian

LOS ANGELES—The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry kicked off its 10th anniversary celebrations in the United States with a reception on February 9 held at the landmark Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale, California. The event was attended by scores of supporters, volunteers, representatives of community organizations, and guest of honor Krikor Hovanessian, consul general of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles.

Prior to the event, an ABMDR delegation comprising Board members and volunteers visited Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian and Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian at the Western Prelacy and the Western Diocese, respectively. Both Archbishop Mardirossian and Archbishop Derderian conveyed their blessings to the ABMDR team, wishing it great success in all of its forthcoming endeavors, including tenth-anniversary events and donor recruitments. In addition, both archbishops stated their continuous support in facilitating the ABMDR’s outreach and recruitment efforts through Armenian churches across California and the West Coast.  

At the jubilant kickoff reception on February 9, speakers enumerated the ABMDR’s many achievements in the past decade and underscored the critical need for expanding the registry’s ranks of potential bone marrow stem cell donors.

In her opening remarks, Nectar Kalajian, ABMDR Board member and master of ceremonies, informed the attendees that the reception came on the heels of a major concert and donor-recruitment event held in Artsakh on January 8, marking both the actual birthday and tenth anniversary of the ABMDR.

ABMDR Board members and volunteers. Photo by Alleko Boghoskhanian

“I joined the ABMDR after a young friend of my son was diagnosed with leukemia and I became familiar with the registry’s life-saving mission,” Kalajian said. “Tonight, as we celebrate a wonderful milestone, our tenth anniversary, we also renew our commitment to significantly increasing the registry’s reach in the United States, Armenia, Artsakh, and elsewhere.”

“As part of our continuing effort to serve Armenians throughout the globe, we need to increase awareness of the ABMDR’s work across all segments of Armenian communities, and particularly among the young generation,” Kalajian continued. “We need people to be aware of the fact that becoming a bone marrow donor is not only extremely easy, painless, and noninvasive, but can also be a profoundly rewarding experience, as it may well save somebody’s life. The ABMDR is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization; our only agenda is to save lives.”

Kalajian’s address was followed by the screening of a short documentary on the achievements and objectives of the ABMDR. Milestones highlighted in the film included the growth of the number of registered bone marrow stem cell donors (who recently passed the 15,000 mark), the presence of the ABMDR in 11 countries, and the opening of the registry’s Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan last year.

The only one of its kind in the Caucasus region, the center features a state-of-the-art tissue-typing laboratory, and can store and harvest stem cells provided by healthy bone marrow donors. The stem cells subsequently can be utilized in transplants for patients suffering from life-threatening blood-related diseases such as leukemia and other cancers.

Next to take the podium was Consul General Krikor Hovanessian, who congratulated the ABMDR on its tenth anniversary and reaffirmed the Armenian government’s support of the registry’s mission. “While there might be quite a few things that divide us as a nation, especially lately, the ABMDR is a cause that decidedly unites every one of us,” the consul general said. “I’ll be honored to be a soldier in that cause and help generate support to ensure its continued development.”

Hovanessian’s remarks about galvanizing the worldwide Armenian community were echoed by Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of the ABMDR Board of Directors.

As she addressed the attendees, Dr. Jordan thanked the consul general for the solidarity of the Armenian government and announced that she and her colleagues have been invited to recruit the entire staff of the Armenian Consulate as potential bone marrow donors. “Given its life-saving mission, the ABMDR draws Armenians from all walks of life and convictions, inspiring them to work together toward a higher good,” she said.

Dr. Jordan also spoke of the registry’s vigorous efforts to involve the Armenian grass roots in its donor-recruitment and awareness-raising activities. “We appeal to all Armenian schools, organizations, and churches to open their doors to the work of the ABMDR,” she said. “The more the registry grows, the greater our ability of saving lives will be. It’s as simple as that.”

Dr. Jordan concluded her remarks by thanking Ara Kalfayan, owner of Phoenicia Restaurant, for hosting the reception and his continued support of the ABMDR.

Leukemia survivor Carlo Manjikian. Photo by Alleko Boghoskhanian

Throughout the reception, the ABMDR received commendations from individual and institutional supporters alike. Among them was Arpi Kestenian, director of Physician/Managed Care Engagement at Glendale Memorial Hospital. “It is so wonderful to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the ABMDR,” Kestenian said. “Glendale Memorial Hospital is extremely proud to have helped support the registry’s recruitment and major fundraising events in the past ten years. Today, as the ABMDR is very much poised to expand its donor ranks and community outreach, we look forward to helping it reach its goals through continued and even stronger and more productive collaboration.”

The evening’s last speaker was Carlo Manjikian, a young Los Angeles leukemia patient who underwent a life-saving stem cell transplantation when his sister was identified as a bone marrow match.

“I was extremely lucky,” Manjikian said. “But so many Armenian patients suffering from life-threatening blood-related diseases are out of luck because they don’t have donor matches. This is why it’s so vitally important to expand the ranks of the ABMDR. I’m a living example of the effectiveness of bone marrow transplants, which are vastly facilitated through the existence of registries such as the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry.”

The ABMDR has planned a series of tenth-anniversary events that will be held throughout 2010. These events — which include a three-day cruise, a wine-tasting reception, a walkathon, a Christmas boutique/luncheon, and a comedy night — will seek to both recruit bone marrow donors and garner support for a number of ongoing registry objectives. According to Dr. Jordan, these comprise the establishment of a dedicated stem cell transplantation center in Armenia, continued donor recruitments in the United States, Armenia, Artsakh, and elsewhere, and the creation of support groups in Australia, Egypt, France, Latin America, and Russia.

About the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry: Established in 1999, the 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 15,000 donors across three continents, identified 1,305 patients, found 1,033 potential matches, and facilitated nine bone marrow transplants.

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

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