More than 200 friends and supporters of the Homenetmen Hrashq chapter attended its first fundraising event on May 10 at the Homenetmen Kevork Andonian Hall, in Los Angeles.
Established in March of 2018, the Homenetmen Hrashq Program serves the needs of Armenian American Special needs athletes.
Mistress of ceremonies Siran Marselian welcomed the guests in her opening remarks and thanked them for their attendance in support of the Homenetmen Hrashq Program. She also acknowledged the presence of members of the Western Regional Board, Hagop Tufenkian, Raffi Varjabedian, Souzy Ohanian and Nora Tchaparian, representative to the Homenetmen Hrashq chapter. She also recognized the members of the event organizing committee who were instrumental in making the sold-out event a success: Aram Bekarian (chair), Siran Marselian, Aline Habeshian, Adrine Kalindjian, Lorig Sivazlian and Kristine Bedoyan.
Marselian invited Homenetmen Hrashq member Nanor Kabakian to give an overview of the program.
In her remarks, Kabakian stated that the chapter was initially comprised 20 athletes who were recruited through the efforts of the Armenian parents Support Group of the Lanterman Regional Center as well as the San Fernando Valley AYF Sardarabad Pyunic Basketball Committee. She added that only one year after its inception, thanks to the efforts of Homenetmen Hrashq parents, the chapter has doubled the numbers of participants and currently has 40 members on its roster.
Kabakian stated that following the 43rd Navasartian Games of 2018, the Hrashq athletic subcommittee secured a state-of-the-art sports facility, the Pacific Community Center and Park; purchased equipment to meet the specific needs of the athletes; and organized a one-day training seminar for coaches to be able to provide regular practices to the athletes. The first practice took place on February 24, 2019. To bring the program to the next level and to give it the professional approach that it deserves, Kabakian announced the hiring of an adaptive physical education teacher who has expertise in assessing the athletes’ motor skills and designing specific lesson plans to meet the needs of each athlete.
Kabakian noted that the Homenetmen Hrashq program is important on several levels. For the athletes, it provides them the opportunity to participate in an Armenian Organization’s day-to-day life, to improve their motor skills, as well as their communication and socialization skills. For the parents, it enables them to watch their child participate in a sports activity, to meet other parents who share the difficult journey of raising a child with special needs, and to have a few moments of respite. For the volunteers, it gives them the satisfaction of witnessing the progress their athletes make week after week and then seeing a smile on their face as they master a particular skill; it also helps the volunteers build their experience in preparation for college. And finally, for the community at large, it helps minimize the stigma surrounding the special-needs population and spreads the message of inclusion and acceptance, in line with Homenetmen’s core values of “Elevate yourself and Elevate others in the process.”
Kabakian concluded her remarks by thanking the parents for their support of the program and for believing in its Mission, the core of volunteers (parents, community members at large, students and alumni from various Armenian schools, Homenetmen members and members of the AYF Sardarabad Pyunic Basketball committee who have been instrumental in heading the practices and who have been working in the Homenetmen Hrashq various subcommittees) for their dedication, as well as the attendees for their support.
Adrine Kalindjian, a Homenetmen Hrashq parent, shared her personal journey of how this Program has had a positive impact on her special-needs son’s life as well as her own. Kalindjian, currently a Homenetmen Ararat basketball coach, stated that throughout her life, she has been an active member of Homenetmen and AYF.
Her other children have been enrolled in Homenetmen’s athletic programs for years, however her special-needs son, despite a strong desire to play sports alongside his siblings within Homenetmen, never had the chance to do that—until the establishment of Homenetmen Hrashq. Kalindjian reminisced how while attending his siblings’ games, her special-needs son would often ask why he could not play, and she often struggled to find an explanation.
She shared what an amazing experience it was to watch her special-needs child finally compete in the 43rd Navasartian Games and how moved she was when the Hrashq chapter lead the parade of athletes at the closing ceremonies at Birmingham High School. Kalindjian concluded her remarks by calling on all the Homenetmen chapters to support the Hrashq Program as it serves all of the special-needs children in their respective regions.
Subsequently, the attendees were entertained by comedian Vahe Berberian. Carlito Bozoghlian made a surprise appearance by also taking the stage. Both Berberan and Bozoghlian were presented with the Homenetmen Centennial Celebration appreciation plaque. The Homenetmen Western Regional Board and the Homenetmen Hrashq Chapter would like to express their heartfelt thanks to Mr. Berberian for generously giving of his time and talents to support Homenetmen Hrashq.
Funds raised at this event will serve to meet the needs of the ever-increasing number of athletes joining the program and to maintain the high-quality level of services provided to them.
For more information about the Homenetmen Hrashq Program, please email Nanor.Kabakian@Homentmen.org.