Bone Marrow Donors and Volunteers Recognized for Their Heroic Work During Pandemic.
LOS ANGELES—More than 300 supporters, including community leaders, elected officials, and representatives of various organizations, joined together for the annual Gala of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry. The Match for Life Gala, which celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the Registry, took place on the evening of August 22, at the Glendale Hilton, in Glendale, California.
Apart from functioning as a testament to the global 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 facilitation of three more bone marrow transplants, a landmark research project to understand how COVID-19 impacts ethnic Armenians, the obtainment of a prestigious grant from Britain, further international recognition of ABMDR’s technical and scientific capabilities, and the organization’s plans to develop a service-personnel DNA bank for Armenia and Artsakh.
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. The Gala’s Mistress of Ceremonies was Taleen Khatchadourian, a longtime ABMDR Board member and supporter, and President of the Armenian Autism Outreach Project.
In her opening remarks, Khatchadourian welcomed the evening’s distinguished guests, including Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese; Father Movses Shannakian, representing Bishop Torkom Donoyan, Prelate of the Western Prelacy; U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters; California State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman; Glendale City Councilmember Ardy Kassakhian; Glendale City Manager Roubik Golanian; Judge Zaven Sinanian of the Los Angeles County Superior Court; Greg Krikorian of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education; Elizabeth Manasserian, Chair of the Rotary Club of Glendale Foundation; Ramella Markarian, Vice President of Adventist Health Glendale Business Development; Dr. Kevin Galstyan, President of the Armenian American Medical Society; Silva Poladian, Chair of the Armenian Relief Society of the Western US; Tagui Sarkisyan, of the Board of the Armenian American Nurses Association; and Naz Atikian, President of the Family Rescue Fund.
Khatchadourian also thanked the Gala’s sponsors, including Adventist Health Glendale, 1st Eagle Realty and Finance (Mr. and Mrs. Zaven and Vehanoosh Grigorian), enBio (Mr. and Mrs. Arthur and Arlene Zenian), Foundation Laboratory (Stepan and Linda Vartanian, Areg and Lala Boyamyan, Ara and Leila Vartanian, and Taleen Vartanian), Los Angeles Cancer Network, ABMDR Board member Carmen Lukassian, ABMDR Outreach and Education Officer Dr. Vergine Madelian, Mission Wine and Spirits (Mr. and Mrs. Viken and Salpi Mankerian), Paulette Malekian of Dilbeck Real Estate, and One Lambda / Thermo Fisher Scientific.
After Khatchadourian’s opening address, the attendees were shown a congratulatory video message from U.S. Congressman and longtime ABMDR supporter Adam Schiff. “From increasing the size of the Registry to expanding into countries with large Armenian communities, your tireless work has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Schiff said. “And these remarkable accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without your wonderful leadership, staff, volunteers, and dedicated network of supporters. Your unwavering commitment to helping people in need is an inspiration, and we owe you all an enormous debt of gratitude.”
Next, Congresswoman Maxine Waters came to the stage to deliver her remarks. She said: “I am here not only to say ‘thank you’ to all of you — to Dr. Frieda Jordan, to all the members of the ABMDR Board, and to all those who are involved in ABMDR — for this tremendous effort of saving lives, but also to thank you for honoring my very best friend, Mrs. Hoori Sadler, founder of the Persian American Cancer Institute, as one of tonight’s award recipients.” At the conclusion of her remarks, Congresswoman Waters presented a Certificate of Special Recognition to Hoori Sadler.
At this time, a moment of silence was observed in honor of fallen soldiers.
The Gala’s invocation was performed by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian. In his remarks, the Primate said, “To me, ABMDR is a divine mission in the life of our community, a mission that strives to reach out to the people of God for the noble vision of finding a match for life. While the world is in turmoil, a group of dedicated people have taken on this mission through their hard work for the past 22 years, to bring hope into the hearts of people who are seeking donors for the chance of once again returning to the healthy life. We thank you all wholeheartedly, for you have responded to God’s call with love.”
Father Movses Shannakian also praised the work of ABMDR. “On behalf of his Grace, Bishop Torkom Donoyan, I would like to pass his blessings on to everyone here, and congratulate all those who are being honored tonight,” he said in his address. “Thank you, ABMDR, for the opportunity of a second chance that you have given to all those who need help.”
Subsequently remarks were delivered by Gala Committee Chairperson and ABMDR Board member Sona Ashjian. “Last year, as we struggled through the challenges brought on by the pandemic, it was important for us to continue our mission, and we held our annual Gala virtually,” she said. “As we slowly move to a life of some normalcy, we’re excited and grateful for being in person here tonight, to celebrate and show our appreciation to those who have supported us. Thank you to our generous sponsors and donors, who have continuously supported our cause. Their loyalty to our organization allows us to move forward our mission of saving lives.” Ashjian went on to thank ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan and ABMDR Executive Director Dr. Sevak Avagyan for their leadership, and acknowledged her fellow Gala teammates as well as several Board members and supporters, whose selfless work and in-kind donations were crucial for the success of the Gala, she said.
Following Ashjian’s address, the attendees were shown the ABMDR 2021 Documentary Video, which was produced by renowned cinematographer Garen Mirzaian who volunteered to work on the project.
After the viewing of the documentary, ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan approached the podium and delivered the evening’s keynote address. “The pandemic, as well as the tragedy that befell our nation recently, have had a severe impact on our community, but I think adversity has also functioned as an opportunity, like no other, for reflection and growth,” she said. “Certainly, our own ABMDR community has grown stronger than ever in the past 18 months, with the resolve to move mountains for our overarching goal of saving lives.”
Dr. Jordan said that ABMDR has continued its essential work during the pandemic, by performing donor-search requests and tissue-typing for its patients, and providing them with support and counseling remotely; as well as working closely with Armenia’s Transplant Center and Kidney Transplant Institute. According to Dr. Jordan, despite travel restrictions and other obstacles, ABMDR has also facilitated its 34th, 35th, and 36th stem cell-harvesting procedures, and completed a globally significant COVID-19 research project, with the collaboration of Armenia’s Health Ministry.
ABMDR’s scientific expertise has also recently garnered the organization a prestigious grant from Guy’s Hospital in London, Dr. Jordan said. The grant will enable ABMDR to function as an organ-transplant reference lab for flow cross-matching, ultimately facilitating organ transplantation in Armenia on an unprecedented scale, she explained. “Our latest project has stemmed from the Artsakh war and our desire to offer our DNA expertise to help ease the pain of thousands affected by the conflict,” Dr. Jordan said. “Since it is often impossible to identify the remains of soldiers with certainty, ABMDR will develop a DNA bank for Armenia and Artsakh, with the purpose of identifying the remains of military personnel.”
Concluding her remarks, Dr. Jordan said, “It is of vital importance that you, members of our community, join the ranks of ABMDR as potential bone marrow donors, for a chance to save someone’s life. Toward this most noble of goals, I am very happy to announce that we have three separate recruitment events planned to take place in the Los Angeles area: on August 29, September 12, and September 25. Please attend these crucial events and spread the news, and please be a hero in support of our cause!”
The ABMDR awards ceremony began following Dr. Jordan’s address. The ABMDR Lifetime Achievement Award was conferred on ABMDR Board member and longtime supporter Jasmen Jerahian; the ABMDR Man of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Vicken Sepilian, President of the Armenian International Medical Committee and a member of the AAMS Board; and the Woman of the Year Award was presented to Hoori Sadler.
As he accepted his award, Dr. Sepilian said, “I’m no stranger to this stage, as I have had the honor to MC this event on several occasions. But never did I imagine that I would be here as the recipient of an award.” Dr. Sepilian dedicated his award to his father, who had passed away, of COVID-19, only days prior to the Gala. “While many of us here work so tirelessly to train ourselves, train our colleagues, in the Diaspora and in Armenia alike, and share the latest scientific information with them, never do you imagine that the disease would come knocking on your own door,” Dr. Sepilian continued. “Truly, I ask all of you to take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.”
Next to address the audience was Dr. Charles Sadler, the husband of Hoori Sadler. Dr. Sadler in turn introduced Anthony Crawford, a young man who has survived cancer thanks to the efforts of the Persian American Cancer Institute. As he delivered an impassioned testimonial, Crawford conveyed his deep appreciation of Hoori Sadler, for having founded the institute and continuing to help lead the fight against cancer.
As she came on stage to accept her award, Hoori Sadler expressed her gratitude for being named the ABMDR Woman of the Year, “This award does not belong to me,” she said. “It belongs to the patients and volunteers of ABMDR, to Dr. Jordan and the Board of the organization. I’m truly honored, but I don’t consider this award to be mine. Rather, it belongs to all of you, because if you weren’t here, if you wouldn’t help, none of the work of the Registry would exist. Lately, we’ve had three patients at our institute in need of a bone marrow donor match. Just yesterday, we lost one of them, who was only 19, because of a lack of resources for facilitating a donor match. You should really give yourselves a round of applause for having a national registry of donors, your very own Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry!”
Afterwards, ABMDR Board member and longtime supporter Dr. Evelyn Baghdasarian introduced the “Be an Angel, Save a Life” fundraising segment of the evening, featuring the young ABMDR Angels. This portion of the event was followed by a live musical interlude, performed by singer Mister X.
Subsequently the second part of the award ceremony took place. The ABMDR Volunteer of the Year Awards were presented to Carmen Lukassian and Armenia Sinanian; the Organization of the Year Awards were conferred on the Armenian American Nurses Association, accepted by Tagui Sarkisyan; and the Armenian Business Network, of Boston; and the Business of the Year Award was presented to enBio, accepted by its CEO, Arthur Zenian.
Following this segment, the 2021 ABMDR Lottery winners were announced.
The festivities continued well into the night, with further performances by Mister X, while many more supporters participated 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 32,000 donors in 44 countries across four continents, identified over 9,000 patients, and facilitated 36 bone marrow transplants. For more information, call (323) 663 – 3609 or visit the website.