ABMDR walkathon garners strong community support Over 500 participate in festive annual event
Los Angeles, May 5, 2014 – Walk of Life, the ninth annual walkathon of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR), took place on May 3 in Glendale, California. Over 500 supporters, including elected officials and community leaders, took part in the event. Walk of Life was also marked by strong youth participation, with teams representing several local Armenian schools, organizations, student associations, and youth clubs.
The 5-K walk-run started at the plaza of Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, looped through central Glendale, and concluded at the starting point, where festivities continued into the day. The event had three major sponsors: Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, the Foundation Laboratory, and an anonymous sponsor who had made a donation in honor of Cynthia Bussey.
The opening ceremony began with welcome remarks delivered by Walk of Life co-chairs Christina Ashjian, Sharlene Gozalians, and Salpi Aprahamian. In her address, Christina Ashjian stated that ABMDR now works in 20 countries across four continents, and to date over 26,000 potential bone marrow stem cell donors have been recruited. A key aspect of the registry’s work, Ashjian said, is its Stem Cell Harvesting Center, in Yerevan, which performs autotransplantation and other life-saving procedures, in addition to conducting pioneering research.
On her part, Sharlene Gozalians recognized the walkathon’s honorary chairs and other attending dignitaries, including Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese, represented at the event by Archpriest Hovsep Hagopian; Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, represented by Father Vazken Atmajian; Reverend Joseph D. Matossian, Minister of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; Jack Ivie, president of Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center; US Congressman Adam Schiff, represented by Mary Hovakimian; State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, represented by Taline Manoukian; Glendale City Council members Laura Friedman, Ara Najarian, and Zareh Sinanyan; former Council member Frank Quintero; and Greg Krikorian, president of the Glendale Unified School District. Gozalians also conveyed the congratulations and good wishes of California State Senator Carol Liu.
In her remarks, Salpi Aprahamian thanked ABMDR’s various committees and volunteers for their hard work, and invited to the podium Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of the registry.
“We’re dedicating our walk to all of our survivors as well as our patients who are no longer with us,” Dr. Jordan said. “Their families and friends are with us here today, helping advance our cause.” Next Dr. Jordan introduced a young cancer survivor, ten-year old Grace Kesablak, who briefly addressed the attendees, thanking all for their support, and went on to present a check for the amount of the donations she herself had collected for the walkathon. “The story of Grace, as those of so many others, is what makes our work so worthwhile,” Dr. Jordan said.
Dr. Jordan also introduced Arpine Zohrabian, a longtime ABMDR supporter and bone marrow donor who has raised funds for Walk of Life. “Three years ago, I donated bone marrow to a three-year-old child,” Zohrabian said in her address. “Today that child is six years old, cancer-free, and healthy, doing what a child should be doing: playing and enjoying life. So I encourage everybody to join the ranks of ABMDR as a potential bone marrow donor. A simple swap sample can help save someone’s life.”
Following the invocation, performed by Archpriest Hovsep Hagopian, Father Vazken Atmajian, and Reverend Joseph D. Matossian, Christina Ashjian presented awards to three outstanding teams participating in the walk. The Providence High School team received a trophy for having the highest number of participants; and the teams led by Arpine Zohrabian and Emily Levine were awarded for having raised the most funds.
Prior to the commencement of the walk, participants warmed up to upbeat music, led by a trainer from Total Woman. Subsequently Dr. Jordan performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony, together with Grace Kesablak.
Among the first to cross the line was Dr. Vicken Sepilian, past president of the Armenian American Medical Society and a longtime supporter of ABMDR. The walkathon included a half-way stop at the Armenian Consulate, on Central Avenue, where walkers were greeted by Counsellor Artak Galstyan and other Consulate staff.
Following the conclusion of the walk, at the plaza of Glendale Memorial Hospital, participants continued to enjoy the festivities — which featured food, music, and dance. The program comprised the awarding of medals to hundreds of children from local schools for their participation in the walkathon.
The celebration at the plaza also gave attendees the opportunity to join the ranks of ABMDR as potential bone marrow donors, as volunteers were on hand to answer questions and welcome new recruits.
Bone marrow donor Arpine Zohrabian addressing the attendees.
Cancer survivor Grace Kesablak, who participated in the walkathon and raised funds for the event.
From left: Archpriest Hovsep Hagopian, Father Vazken Atmajian, Dr. Frieda Jordan, and Reverend Joseph D. Matossian.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A scene from the walkathon.
The Walkathon Committee and supporters.