WATERTOWN—The New England Support Group of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) hosted its second annual Walk of Life on Saturday, September 28 in Watertown, Massachusetts.
The event kicked off at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center at 11 a.m., taking participants on a 2.2- mile route culminating at Watertown’s annual “Faire on the Square.” Distinguished Reverend Avedis Boynerian (of the Armenian Memorial Church) and Reverend Gregory V. Haroutunian (of the First Armenian Church) offered a blessing at the onset of the walk, and Jack Antounian, president of the Armenian Business Network (ABN), officiated the event.
The walk attracted over 200 participants from a variety of age groups, twice the number of walkers from the previous year. “We are so thankful for the tremendous enthusiasm our community leaders demonstrated: they stepped forward, set up teams, encouraged their constituents’ participation in the walk, and the results were fantastic,” said ABMDR Board member Alvart Badalian.
Eighteen walking teams were formed by supportive individuals and community organizations, including the Armenian Business Network, ACYOA, AGBU Young Professionals Boston, Armenian Library and Museum of America, Amaras Art Alliance, AYF Boston Nejdeh Chapter, Belmont High School Armenian Club, Erebuni Armenian School, Hamazkayin Boston, Homenetmen Boston, Team Hope, Lexington High School Armenian Club, Team Namaste, Team Poreeg, Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston, St. James Armenian Church, St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School, and Watertown High School Armenian Club.
“It was my honor to participate in this year’s Walk of Life Walkathon — an event that brought out the best in our community,” Antounian said. “My gratitude and special thanks to our local ABN members who volunteered and marshaled the walkathon, and made sure it was a safe and fun event for all who took part in this noble walk.”
“For the second year, the Boston-based Dana Farber Cancer Institute has been our major sponsor and we thank this important establishment for their help,” said Tamar Melkonian of the Walkathon Committee at the closing ceremony. “We also thank our local supporters, the Doctors Express for their donation, Arax Market for providing our walkers with refreshing fruits, and, of course, a world of gratitude to the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center for giving us a home base to start our walk.”
The St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School team was awarded the prize for most funds raised, while the Erebuni Armenian School won the distinction of largest team. Alec Zareh Zarifian won the award for individually raising the most funds independently. These winners were each rewarded with a cluster of trees to be planted in Armenia in their honor. This symbolic gift was a generous donation by the Armenia Tree Project (armeniatree.org).
“We were humbled by the enthusiasm that the youngest in our community showed towards this event and their desire to help those in need; their participation was truly an inspiration,” said Badalian.
More than $14,000 was raised through the walkathon in support of ABMDR’s life-saving work.
“Every step taken during the walkathon brings hope for a long-awaited bone marrow match for a fellow Armenian struck with a life-threatening disease like leukemia or other blood-related illness,” said Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of ABMDR. “Since the unique genetic makeup of Armenians makes it extremely difficult to find suitable bone marrow matches among the existing international bone marrow donor registries, ABMDR’s database serves as a vital resource when crisis strikes.”
Established in 1999, 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 24,000 donors in 18 countries across four continents, identified 2,135 patients, and facilitated 17 bone marrow transplants.