ABMDR gala celebrates ten years of life-saving mission

Annual event garners overwhelming community support;
Benefactors and volunteers honored

Los Angeles, August 3, 2010 – On the evening of Sunday, July 25, over 450 supporters joined “Match for Life 2010,” the annual gala of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR). The festive and elegant event, which took place at the Glendale Ballroom of the Hilton Hotel in Glendale, California, celebrated the tenth anniversary of the registry, honored several outstanding benefactors and volunteers, and helped reaffirm the worldwide Armenian community’s solidarity with the life-saving mission of the ABMDR.
“Match for Life 2010” also raised funds for the ABMDR’s ongoing activities and a slew of planned projects. While the registry’s Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan continues to grow and bone marrow donor recruitment drives are regularly organized throughout the United States, Armenia, and Artsakh, the next overarching objective is to establish a stem cell transplantation center in Armenia.
The gala kicked off with a cocktail hour, when a great many attendees purchased glasses of champagne for a chance to win a necklace, donated by Design by Naz (Naz Atikian). Guests also bid on a variety of silent-auction items.
The evening’s main program began with the opening remarks of ABMDR Board member Dr. Evelyn Baghdasarian.
As she warmly welcomed the guests, Dr. Baghdasarian mentioned the names of elected officials, religious leaders, and representatives of various community and health organizations in attendance.
Among the roster of dignitaries were Rev. Father Dajad Yardemian of the Western Diocese; Rev. Father Vazken Atmajian of the Western Prelacy; U.S. congressman Adam Schiff; a representative from the office of Los Angeles County supervisor Mike Antonovich; Glendale mayor Ara Najarian; Burbank mayor Anja Reinke; Glendale City Council members Laura Freedman and Frank Quintero; Harut Sassounian, senior vice-president of the Lincy Foundation and president of the United Armenian Fund; former Glendale mayor Larry Zarian; Mark Meyers (president), David Mauss (vice-president of business development), and Arpi Kestenian of Glendale Memorial Hospital; as well as Dro Abrahamian and Ramella Markarian of Glendale Adventist Hospital.
Also represented at the gala were the Persian American Cancer Institute, Armenian Nurses’ Association, Armenian Medical Society of California, Armenian Relief Society, and Armenian Chamber of Commerce, Assemblymember Gatto’s representative, among other organizations.
Following Dr. Baghdasarian’s remarks, master of ceremonies and Board member Nectar Kalajian thanked supporters, and in particular recognized the work of longtime volunteer Fimi Mekhitarian before inviting Congressman Schiff to the podium.
“For tonight’s purposes I’m Armenian to the marrow of my bones,” Schiff began as he spoke of the vital importance of joining the ABMDR as a potential bone marrow stem cell donor. “The work of this organization has been nothing short of miraculous,” the congressman said.
As dinner was served following the invocation by Very Rev. Father Dajad Yardemian, a documentary featuring highlights of the ABMDR’s ten years of achievement was shown on two giant screens.
Next to take the podium was keynote speaker Mark Geragos, Esq., chairman of the ABMDR Board and one of the earliest champions of the registry’s cause.
“It’s quite remarkable that ten years ago the registry was launched due to the illness of one Armenian girl [Alique Topalian] and the recognition that Armenians share a unique genetic makeup,” Geragos said as he referred to the critical need for maintaining a large pool of potential stem cell donors. “To date we have recruited over 16,000 donors across three continents, vastly increasing the chances of survival for Armenians struck by life-threatening blood-related diseases and in need of a bone marrow transplant,” the chairman continued.
Before introducing ABMDR president Dr. Frieda Jordan, Geragos invited to the podium the registry’s 2010 Volunteers of the Year, Jasik Jarahian and Marina Manukian, who were honored for their extraordinary dedication.
Also called to the stage were Board member and gala chair Naz Atikian as well as Dr. Vigen Sepilian, president of the Armenian American Medical Society of California, who read short biographies of Dr. Jordan and Dr. Sevak Avagyan, executive director of the ABMDR’s Armenia operations. After plaques of recognition were bestowed on Dr. Jordan and Dr. Avagyan (in absentia), Dr. Jordan delivered her keynote speech.
“The significance of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry is not about the number of years it has been in existence, but rather the number of those who have made its mission possible,” Dr. Jordan said. “So if we were to have a cake for our tenth anniversary, it would have to be enormous enough to include all the candles in honor of our champions: thousands upon thousands of candles for our volunteers, donors, and supporters; and certainly 24 big candles for tonight’s honorees. I stand in the glow of this brilliant candlelight and I’m humbled.”
Dr. Jordan went on to enumerate some of the ABMDR’s most recent accomplishments, including the establishment of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan and its first-ever stem cell harvesting procedure, which led to a successful bone marrow transplant in Belgium; the recruitment of 3,000 new donors worldwide; and the welcoming of His Holiness Karekin II as the ABMDR’s latest registered donor.
Dr. Jordan also spoke of some of the registry’s major goals for the immediate future. She said the ABMDR seeks to add 10,000 new donors to its pool, expand into additional countries, and institute a host of outreach and education programs worldwide. “I hope our work will add numerous candles on people’s birthday cakes,” she concluded.
One of the evening’s most touching moments came when the audience was addressed by cancer survivor Alique Topalian, who, as a girl of 4 struck by leukemia, had inspired Dr. Jordan to establish the ABMDR.
Following Topalian’s remarks, ABMDR volunteer Lisa Kalajian spoke of the financial commitment it takes to run the registry. “We need a minimum of $300,000 every year to fund our operations and continue to grow,” she said. “As we receive no government support of any kind, we have to rely on the generosity of the Armenian community and our corporate sponsors.”
In keeping with the traditional ABMDR slogan “Be an angel, save a life,” several girls, dressed as angels, collected donation envelopes from various tables, with the names of donors subsequently announced from the stage.
A major highlight of the program was the recognition of the 2010 ABMDR honorees. As this group of outstanding volunteers and supporters was invited to the stage, the Founders’ Award was bestowed on Diana Artunian, Mark Geragos, Dr. Bella Kocharyan, Mark Meyers, Frank Melkonian, Dr. Carolann Najarian, Dr. Aida Shirinian-Kaloostian, and Stepan Vartanian. In addition to Volunteers of the Year Jasik Jarahian and Marina Manukian, 14 other volunteers and supporters received the Special Recognition Award.
The evening’s last speaker, Harut Sassounian, conveyed heartfelt anniversary congratulations on behalf of the Lincy Foundation, a major ABMDR supporter recognized as a Partner for Life. Sassounian expressed high praise for the registry, whose unique work, he said, continues to provide the gift of life to Armenians and non-Armenians alike.
The gala program concluded with the drawing of the winning champagne-ticket raffle. But guests continued to enjoy themselves well into the night, as they socialized and danced to the music of a live band.
Major sponsors of “Match for Life 2010,” which raised $98,000 for various ABMDR projects, included the Daughters of Vartan, Glendale Memorial Hospital, Los Angeles Cancer Network, Mission Wine and Spirits, Design by Naz, Remedy Liquor, and Robert’s Catering Services.

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 16,000 donors in 13 countries across three continents,