After two years of virtual gatherings, the Armenian EyeCare Project was thrilled to be able to celebrate its momentous 30th anniversary year with its supporters in person again through the organization’s 30th Anniversary Gala last fall.
On November 19, 2022, hundreds of friends and supporters of the organization gathered at the beautiful Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, California to celebrate three decades of life-changing work and sight-saving service in Armenia. The evening began with a bustling cocktail reception where friends of the AECP were excited to get together again in support of a cause close to everyone’s hearts: eliminating preventable blindness in Armenia and making quality eye care accessible to every child and adult in the country.
As the crowd migrated to the Grand Ballroom, the extra-special evening continued with a delicious coursed dinner, live Armenian music by the Hosharian Brothers Band and the opportunity to support the AECP’s priceless work in Armenia by participating in the organization’s thrilling Live Auction and memorable Fund-a-Need.
One highlight of the night was the 30-year story shared with guests throughout the evening through a documentary produced by Art Simon, a talented videographer who has been working with the AECP for nearly 20 years. Simon co-hosted the Gala alongside ophthalmologist Dr. Tom Lee, who works as Director of The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and has been a volunteer physician with the AECP for over 10 years.
Through the captivating banter between the unlikely duo of a cinematic storyteller and dedicated eye surgeon, Master of Ceremonies Art Simon and Tom Lee took the crowd on a three-decade-long journey of the AECP and its momentous accomplishments in Armenia.
It began with the story of how it all started. In 1992, a call from Armenia’s Ministry of Health had asked Armenian-American physicians in the U.S. to help fight the growing wave of blindness in Armenia due to war and a tragic earthquake that had hit the country. Dr. Roger Ohanesian – who would later found the Armenian EyeCare Project – responded quickly, motivated by a promise he had made to his grandfather as a 12-year-old boy to help protect his ancestral homeland when he had the opportunity.
The story continued with what the AECP has accomplished in Armenia since its start 30 years ago. This includes medical education and training programs for local physicians and medical staff in Armenia. It also includes the development of several eye care initiatives in the country, like the AECP’s Mobile Eye Hospital, which travels across Armenia to provide eye care at no cost to the country’s most vulnerable residents; its Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness, which combats eye disease found in babies and children; and its Regional Eye Centers, which provide care to residents who live in the many regions throughout Armenia.
And always with more work to be done, guests at the AECP Gala were able to get a glimpse of what’s to come in terms of developments the AECP is currently working on including expanding access to regional care with more diagnostic facilities across Armenia and more.
None of AECP’s accomplishments, of course, would be possible without help from dedicated groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond to provide support for the AECP’s services in Armenia. During its 30th Anniversary Gala, the AECP was proud to honor Alcon as its Corporate Honoree of the evening as well as ophthalmologist Dr. Dwayne Baharozian as its Individual Honoree.
Alcon, a medical company and global leader specializing in eye care, has donated millions of dollars’ worth of state-of-the-art medical equipment to the AECP since the organization’s start in 1992. In fact, Ohanesian’s first trip to Armenia included a shipment of equipment donated from Alcon, which Ohanesian took with him on his flight. This equipment has proven to be incredibly valuable over the years, allowing local physicians in Armenia to have the most modern tools needed to perform vital, sight-saving surgeries and procedures on their patients. Jeannette Bankes, President & GM of Global Surgical Franchise at Alcon, accepted the award on Alcon’s behalf and noted that the company will continue to support such a worthy cause as the AECP.
Dr. Dwayne Baharozian, a board-certified ophthalmologist from Boston, Massachusetts, was the AECP’s Individual Honoree. Baharozian has been a volunteer physician with the AECP for several years and most notably has helped facilitate many valuable in-kind donations for the organization. The most recent of these was an in-kind donation of nine pieces of state-of-the-art eye equipment made by Alcon. Ohanesian said that this particular contribution has had a tremendous impact on the care available in Armenia, as the cutting-edge equipment has been designated to eye care facilities spanning across the many regions of Armenia. “Now no person with an eye disorder is more than 20 miles from a location where they can be diagnosed and 40 miles from where they can be treated,” Ohanesian said.
The AECP Founder also mentioned that the organization would be nowhere without the companies and individuals who are so dedicated to helping AECP fulfill its mission in Armenia. “Much of AECP’s credit should be passed on to companies like Alcon and people like Dr. Baharozian,” Ohanesian said. “Thanks to their dedication, we are able to provide much-needed assistance to so many deserving Armenians.”
AECP’s extra-special 30th Anniversary Gala culminated with guests celebrating on the dance floor. Most importantly, the event was able to raise much-needed funds for the organization so it can continue its sight-saving work in Armenia. Highlights from the AECP’s 30th Anniversary Gala can be found online.