LOS ANGELES—The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry celebrated its 24th anniversary with a festive annual Gala that was held in Los Angeles.
The Match for Life Gala, which comprised the ABMDR awards ceremony, took place on the evening of August 27 at the Glendale Hilton, in Glendale, California. The event was attended by more than 300 supporters, including community leaders, elected officials, and representatives of organizations.
As in previous years, ABMDR’s work received praise from many officials at the event, including California State Senator Anthony Portantino. A longtime supporter and advocate of ABMDR, Portantino presented a Certificate of Recognition on behalf of the California Senate to ABMDR president Dr. Frieda Jordan.
After a cocktail hour and silent auction in the foyer and terrace of the Hilton’s “Glendale” Ballroom, the evening’s main program commenced inside the hall. Welcome remarks were delivered by the Gala’s Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Vicken Sepilian, past president of the Armenian American Medical Society and current president of the Armenian Medical International Committee.
Welcome remarks were delivered by Gala co-chairs Gayaneh Kostikyan and Annethe Postik as well. The co-chairs thanked the event’s major sponsors, including Prolase Med Spa and Laser Clinic, Adventist Health Glendale, Geragos & Geragos, and First Eagle Realty / Vehanoosh Grigorian. The co-chairs also thanked a number of supporters for helping make the Gala a success, including J’adore Les Fleurs, Lucky Graze, Ice Link, Mission Spirits and Wine, Nazig Bashkijian, Lena Tchellikian Boyadjian, and Stepanian Clinic.
The evening’s invocation was performed by Fathers Yeghia Isayan and Zareh Sarkissian.
Next, Dr. Sepilian acknowledged the Gala’s distinguished guests, including Father Yeghia Isayan, representing Arch. Hovnan Derderian of the Armenian Diocese; Father Zareh Sarkissian, representing Bishop Torkom Donoyan of the Armenian Prelacy; Mary Hovagimian, representing US Congressman Adam Schiff; Christopher John Khachadour, representing California State Assemblymember Laura Friedman; and the entire City Council of Glendale, California, including Mayor Daniel Brotman and Council members Elen Asatryan, Paula Devine, Ardy Kassakhian, and Ara Najarian, “all of whom could not be with us tonight as they did not wish to cross the picket line of the hotel workers,” Dr. Sepilian said and continued, “Nonetheless, all members of the City Council have sent us congratulatory messages, conveying the fact that ABMDR and its mission are very dear to their hearts, and that they are very much here with us in spirit.”
Dr. Sepilian went on to acknowledge the presence of Glendale City clerk Suzie Abajian; Glendale City manager Roubik Golanian; Dr. Ramella Markarian, vice president of Adventist Health Glendale Business Development; Dr. Varouj Alahverdian, past president of the Armenian American Medical Society; representatives of the Armenian American Nurses Association; Christine Mavilian of the Armenian International Medical Fund; Dr. Babak Moghimi and Dr. George Yaghmour of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; Hoori Sadler, founder of the Persian American Cancer Institute, and her husband, Dr. Charles Sadler; Jasik Jerahian of the Armenian Relief Society; Naz Atikian, founder and president of the Family Rescue Fund; Robert Agaverdian, president of Bridge of Health; Taleen Khatchadourian, president of the Armenian Autism Outreach Project; and Joe Krikorian, founder and CEO of Code 3 Angels.
Dr. Sepilian then welcomed Dr. Frieda Jordan, the evening’s keynote speaker, to the stage.
“We are gathered here tonight to celebrate ABMDR and our very own heroes: the selfless men and women who volunteer to join our cause for the profoundly-rewarding chance of helping save someone’s life,” Dr. Jordan said. “Tonight, we are also aware of the extreme hardships that our brothers and sisters in Artsakh continue to face. We stand with our long-suffering compatriots.”
Dr. Jordan spoke of the strides which ABMDR has made during the past year, including its participation in various global medical conferences, a significant range of DNA-based services which ABMDR offers to patients in Armenia, expansion of outreach and recruitment with the launch of ABMDR’s NextGen youth team, and professional growth.
“At our lab in Yerevan, intensive personnel training and continuing education are ongoing,” Dr. Jordan said. “As a result, we now have two EFI inspectors representing Armenia: myself and our lab supervisor Armine Hyussyan. This is very prestigious for Armenia. At least in the field of molecular DNA testing, Mrs. Hyussyan and I are the only ones, not only from Armenia, but from the entire region of the Caucasus, qualified and certified to inspect hospitals and labs in Europe and beyond. This puts Armenia on par with European labs from much larger and richer countries.”
Dr. Jordan concluded: “Yet in spite of our growth, we remain laser-focused on our mission: to be a beacon of hope for our patients and families in need of a match, regardless of ethnicity, age, or location. We are there for them all.”
Dr. Sepilian next invited Dr. Sevak Avagyan, executive director of ABMDR, to the stage.
“Apart from our core quest of matching donors with patients in need of a transplant, we are diversifying our services,” Dr. Avakyan said. “These include HLA-disease associations, cord-blood banking, cross-matching for kidney transplantation, scientific research, and training of specialists. Today, there is one more, and extremely important, service that we’re focusing on, and that’s building a DNA bank for Armenian military personnel.”
“Imagine,” Dr. Avakyan explained, “the remains of close to 300 Armenian soldiers have yet to be identified since the 2020 Artsakh War, simply because there aren’t any DNA samples for identification. Today, we’re working very hard to address this tragic situation, by starting a national DNA bank for soldiers, with several military foundations already providing us with DNA samples.”
Following Dr. Avakyan’s address, Dr. Sepilian said, “About a month ago, the International Medical Congress of Armenia, which takes place every four years, was held in Yerevan, and it was truly an honor to moderate, with Dr. Avagyan, a session where innovations in medicine and the results of breakthrough medical research were presented. These accomplishments were being presented as the work of ABMDR, as a result of your support. Thank you, everyone who has helped make such cutting-edge innovations and research possible.”
At this juncture, the attendees were shown the ABMDR 2023 Documentary Video, whose production was donated by acclaimed filmmaker Garen Mirzaian, of Table 22 Films. The video was dedicated to the families of ABMDR patients.
Subsequently Dr. Sepilian invited Hoori Sadler and Dr. Charles Sadler to the stage. In her remarks, Hoori Sadler praised ABMDR’s grassroots quest to match cancer patients with bone marrow donors. She in turn invited 14-year old Alex Darbinyan, a leukemia survivor, to the stage. In 2022, ABMDR held a string of donor recruitments in the US and Armenia in an effort to find donor matches for Alex and other ABMDR patients.
Following Hoori Sadler’s remarks, the ABMDR Inspiration Award was presented to Maz Jobrani. A renowned actor and comedian, Jobrani has been a longtime ABMDR supporter, having participated multiple times in its annual benefit comedy event, Laughter for Life. Jobrani was introduced by Dr. Charles Sadler.
As Jobrani accepted the ABMDR Inspiration Award, he said, “I don’t feel worthy of an award at all, because, the truth is, when I see the real soldiers, the foot soldiers of this organization, doing what you do, you guys are the ones who deserve an award. I just show up at the ABMDR comedy night and tell some jokes. My friend Sam Tripoli calls me once a year and asks, ‘Do you wanna do another show for the Armenians?’ And I say, ‘Of course I wanna do another show for the Armenians.’ I’m so happy to be a part of it!”
As someone who has experienced the extraordinary joy of having been identified as a potential bone marrow donor some years ago, Jobrani said, “I hope all of you register with ABMDR and support its work.”
Next to address the guests was Arpine Zohrabyan, a longtime ABMDR volunteer, supporter, and Board member, as well as a bone marrow donor who has helped save a little girl’s life. Zohrabyan introduced the “Be an Angel, Save a Life” fundraising portion of the evening, featuring the young ABMDR Angels.
As this segment was underway, singer Harout Pamboukjian delighted the guests with performances of timeless classics.
The evening’s main awards ceremony followed the musical interlude. The ABMDR Organization of the Year Award was conferred on Fans With a Cause, a women-led organization that empowers women in their creative pursuits. The Business of the Year Award was presented to Prolase Med Spa and Laser Clinic / Dr. Karo Isagholian. The Volunteer of the Year Awards were presented to Lena Tchellikian Boyadjian and Rubina Varjabedian. The Woman of the Year Award was bestowed on Vehanoosh Grigorian, and the Man of the Year Award was conferred on Hratch Postik.
The festivities resumed, with guests having a great time to the inimitable voice and music of Harout Pamboukjian.
Subsequently the 2023 ABMDR Lottery was drawn and the winners were announced, while supporters continued to participate in the silent auction in the foyer.
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 33,500 donors in 44 countries across four continents, identified over 9,000 patients, and facilitated 40 bone marrow transplants. For more information, call (323) 663-3609 or visit the ABMDR website.