Los Angeles community rallies in support of Walk of Life 2010

Hundreds participate in fifth annual walkathon of
Armenian Bone M arrow Donor Registry

Los Angeles, November 19, 2010 – Walk of Life 2010, the fifth annual walkathon of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR), kicked off in a jubilant atmosphere early in the morning of Saturday, November 13, in front of Glendale Memorial Hospital, in Glendale, California.

Hundreds of local community members as well as several community leaders and elected officials had gathered to take part in the event, which has fast become a major grassroots conduit for supporting the life-saving activities of the ABMDR. The 3K/6K walk continues to be especially popular among the youth, with this year’s turnout including numerous teams of participants representing local schools and colleges.

In her remarks during the event’s opening ceremony, Dr. Evelyn Baghdassarian of the ABMDR Board welcomed participants and mentioned that 2010 marks the tenth anniversary of the ABMDR. “It’s so inspiring to see all of you support a cause that keeps growing strong year after year,” she said. “With our walk today, we celebrate good health, good habits, and an enduring spirit of solidarity with those whose very survival depends on finding a bone marrow donor match.”

Dignitaries and community leaders attending the walkathon included Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, prelate of the Western Prelacy, Rev. Father Dajad Yardemian of the Western Diocese, Congressman Adam Schiff (Burbank), Glendale mayor Ara Najarian, and Armenian Consul General in Los Angeles Grigor Hovhannisyan. Also in attendance were several popular entertainers such as Karen Boksian.

“It is with great joy that I join you at this fifth annual Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry Walk of Life,” said Archbishop Mardirossian in his keynote speech. “The goals of this event are to raise awareness of the plight of thousands of our fellow brothers and sisters worldwide who are in need of the life-giving services of this remarkable organization, as well as to raise funds to assist the registry in successfully carrying out its humanitarian mission.”

“It is so encouraging and uplifting to see this large gathering here this morning,” the prelate continued. “That you are taking this time out of your busy schedules to participate in this walkathon speaks volumes. Rather than stand in the sidelines, you have chosen to be here today to actively contribute to this worthy cause and that is greatly commendable. The ABMDR called on its supporters to lend a helping hand in their mission to recruit and match donors to offer hope for survival and give the gift of life to our brethren, and you responded to that call loud and clear with your participation today.”

Also delivering remarks was Congressman Schiff, a longtime supporter of the ABMDR and a regular participant in the annual walkathon. “It’s so wonderful to be here today, on the tenth anniversary of the ABMDR,” Schiff said. “I think Walk of Life is very apt for describing the work of the registry, as it not only gives hope to those who need a bone marrow stem cell transplant, but yields tangible results through donor recruitment and a host of far-reaching programs.”

As she warmly welcomed participants just before the start of the walkathon, Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of the ABMDR Board of Directors, said, “You’re all engines of our work. Today, as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the ABMDR, let us remember that hundreds of patients depend on the possibility of a life-saving bone marrow stem cell transplant. By continuing to work together and strengthening our programs, we can help give the gift of life to so many people around the world.”

Dr. Jordan also acknowledged the presence of several guests of honor and conveyed special thanks to Consul General Hovhannisyan as well as Arpi Kestenian, chairperson of the walkathon and representative of Glendale Memorial Hospital, which has been recognized by the registry as a Partner for Life.

Making its way through central Glendale and drawing enthusiastic interest from onlookers, the well-organized, close to four-mile walkathon concluded at Verdugo Park, where the hundreds of participants joined a large crowd of supporters to enjoy a community festival replete with food, live music, and opportunities for joining the ABMDR at donor-recruitment booths.

As they administered a very simple health-screening procedure and registered potential bone marrow donors, volunteer recruiters noted the eagerness of numerous attendees, young people in particular, for bolstering the ranks of the ABMDR.

Volunteer Karine Khudikian, who has worked with the ABMDR since its establishment ten years ago, said, “Volunteering for the ABMDR is not only something I feel I need to do, but something I enjoy. One reason is that all of our hard work will be worth it if we can help save the life of even one person. Another important reason is that Armenians from all walks of life, and irrespective of origin, irrespective of denominational and political affiliation, join hands in supporting the activities of the registry. This alone is a marvelous phenomenon.”

Musicians who lent their talent to the joyous community festival included singers Arsham, Ara Shahbazian, Hrach Bogharian, and Ara Sahagian, accompanied on keyboards by Armen Babaian.

As with previous walkathons, many teams representing Armenian and public schools as well as student associations from community colleges and universities took part in Walk of Life 2010. Their dedication was recognized during the festival as they received the ABMDR’s Community Work Award. The walkathon also comprised family and friend teams of participants, some of whom walked in memory of loved ones.

The broad community and mainstream support which the walkathon garnered included sponsorships by corporations, healthcare establishments, local government, elected officials, and the artists who donated their talent to the festival at Verdugo Park.

Walk of Life 2010 was co-sponsored by Glendale Memorial Hospital and the City of Glendale. The event was chaired by Arpi Kestenian of Glendale Memorial Hospital and had five honorary co-chairs: Laura Friedman, a member of the Glendale City Council and a cancer survivor; Congressman Adam Schiff; Senator Carol Liu, a strong advocate of breast cancer awareness; Greg Krikorian, president of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education; and Consul General Grigor Hovhannisyan.

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, identified 1,696 patients, found 1,419 potential matches, and facilitated 11 bone marrow transplants.