NEW YORK–Supporters of the Children of Armenia Fund gathered for the organization’s seventh annual gala on December 16, held at the spectacular Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The nearly 300 guests in attendance enthusiastically demonstrated their continuing commitment to COAF’s cause, raising more than $1.5 million which will go to support the second phase of renovation of a school in the village of Miasnikian as well as ongoing programs in education, health and economic development in the ten villages in which COAF has worked over the past six years.
A Focus on Children
Emmy- and Tony-Award-winning actress Andrea Martin, a long-time COAF supporter, again entertained the audience and emceed the event, but performances by children and young people–The Broadway Youth Ensemble, 13-year-old actor/vocalist Kyle Alexander Brenn, and Sirena Huang, the 15-year-old concert violinist–highlighted the program. It was three little girls from Armenia, however, who brought the crowd to its feet and tears to many eyes. Miracle, a choir from the COAF-sponsored village of Miasnikian, consists of eight-year-old Silva Baghdasaryan, Tatyana Hmayakyan and Siranush Boyajyan, whose voices are angelic and nearly pitch perfect. Having never been on an airplane before, they traveled to New York the day before the event and confidently and movingly sang the Armenian song Yerevan Dartsats im Erebuni, obliging the enthusiastic crowd with an encore.
Honoring Philanthropic Excellence
COAF also honored two esteemed philanthropists during the evening. The 2010 Benefactor Award was given to Gerard Cafesjian, a longtime and generous supporter of Armenian causes. He has championed the efforts of the Armenian people to move beyond the tragedy of the Genocide and to continue on as significant contributors to the well being and advancement of humankind. Ambassador John Evans spoke on Mr. Cafesjian’s behalf. The late Paul Newman was memorialized through the dedication of COAF’s 2010 Humanitarian Award. Annual grants from Newman’s Own Foundation have allowed COAF to establish and maintain a thriving photo and video club that has broadened the horizons of all its participants. Mark McEwen, author, journalist and former CBS News personality, spoke of his interactions with the remarkable Mr. Newman.
The evening’s guest speakers were Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Mr. Michael Aram, artist and entrepreneur, and Dr. Helen Evans, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator for Byzantine Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dr. Gregorian appealed to guests’ sense of philanthropic duty. He noted that two-thirds or Armenians now reside outside of Armenia, a highly successful population in every field. He reminded guests that with great wealth also comes a great responsibility and opportunity to give to those less fortunate. COAF board member, Michael Aram, spoke with passion and emotion about his recent trip to Armenia and Dr. Evans educated attendees about the history of The Temple of Dendur and the notable Armenian art pieces currently residing in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
COAF Accomplishments and Future Plans
Since it began operations in 2004, COAF has brought vastly improved education, health care and community services to 22,000 people in the Armavir marz in Armenia, working closely with the local residents to determine what is needed and to build self-sufficiency.
Dr. Garo Armen, Founder & Chairman of COAF, expressed his deep gratitude to the attendees for their ongoing support and gave an update on COAF’s most recent achievements. He particularly focused on recent progress within the school in Miasnikian. Before COAF began to rebuild and refurbish it, it was a decaying facility lacking electricity, indoor plumbing and window glass throughout. Despite that, nearly 700 children attended classes there daily. Now it has been partially refurbished and the contrast between the before and after is striking.
To ensure that the project is completed expeditiously, C. Hugh Hildesley, Executive Vice President of Sotheby’s, conducted a rousing auction that gave attendees the opportunity to make donations at various levels, sponsoring specific classrooms, school facilities, or support functions. This project auction was a tremendous success, contributing more than $700,000 to the evening’s fundraising total.
Founded in 2000, the Children of Armenia Fund is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental (501)(c)(3) organization. COAF works to secure a future for children in Armenia’s impoverished rural villages through improved education, health care, community life and economic conditions. At their core, COAF’s programs create and sustain opportunities for growth and progress.