BY GAIANEH AVANESSIAN
More than 200 youth from 10 AYF chapters descended upon La Quinta for the 38th annual AYF Olympics. Held over Thanksgiving weekend and hosted by the Hollywood “Musa Dagh” chapter, the annual olympiad is a tradition many anticipate in the 75-year old organization founded by Armenian national hero, General Karekin Njdeh.
The weekend’s focus is uniting AYF members in an atmosphere of friendly competition under the organization’s athletic and social pillars. The festivities kicked off on Friday night with the “Hollywood Hookup” event, which gave members an opportunity to mingle with people from other chapters.
“Olympics is a unique opportunity for the entire AYF family to come together for a weekend of camaraderie, catching up with old friends and making new ones,” explains San Francisco AYF member Raffi Senekeremian. “Personally, after participating in AYF Youth Corps, this was the first time our group was able to reunite and reminisce about our Youth Corps days. As a distant chapter, it tends to be difficult for us to participate with most of the AYF events that take place in the LA Area, but Olympics serves as a venue for distant chapters to be one with the LA Area chapters for a weekend of fun and competition.”
The annual AYF Olympics are hosted by a different chapter each year, with the Hollywood chapter hosting this year’s sports weekend. “Having the opportunity to host AYF Olympics usually happens to an AYF member only once in their organizational lifetime,” notes Hollywood “Musa Dagh” member Carina Khanjian. “This weekend of competition truly demonstrates the fraternal bond AYF members have with one another, as well as their welcoming attitude to non-AYF members who attended the weekend festivities.”
While planning and organizing the weekend, the Hollywood Olympics committee came to realize the importance of working with sister organizations in the larger Armenian community. “We are truly grateful to the Los Angeles Chapter Homenetmen and the Western Region Homenetmen for donating their time and equipment and helping make the tournaments a success,” Khanjian added.
The weekend’s events took place at the Embassy Suites Hotel with some of the games being played on hotel grounds while others were held at the nearby La Quinta community park. The tournament began Saturday morning with a friendly dodge-ball competition between chapters. The Orange County “Ashod Yergat” chapter, with their dodge-ball themed t-shirts claimed first place. In the afternoon and into the evening hours, chapters vied for first place in the soccer and basketball tournaments. The San Fernando Valley “Sardarabad” chapter was victorious in soccer while the Pasadena “Nigol Touman” chapter triumphed in basketball.
“It’s great to see all of our hard work paid off,” says Pasadena “Nigol Touman” member Kevork Abrahamian. “We practiced as a team on a weekly basis and were very excited to win first place”.
After a long day of competition, participants attended the “Bright Lights, Hollywood Nights” black tie event.
“During the day I enjoyed competing against my friends, especially my former AYF Camp counselors, and the dance at night was a great way to end the weekend,” says Crescenta Valley “Zartonk” member Nina Amirian. “It brought us all together for one last time, until next year.”
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the United States working to advance the social, political, educational, and cultural awareness of Armenian-American youth.