LOS ANGELES–The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry held a cocktail reception on April 2 in Glendale, to celebrate the upcoming opening of its Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan.
The event, which was attended by supporters, ABMDR staff, and various committee members ‘s all of whom volunteer for the registry ‘s served as an opportunity to formally announce the much-anticipated launch of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center, inform guests of current and future ABMDR projects, and thank supporters for helping save lives through the registry.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of the ABMDR Board of Directors, expressed her gratitude to the numerous individual and corporate supporters who have contributed to the registry’s first-ever telethon, held on April 13, 2008. “Thanks to your timely assistance, the Stem Cell Harvesting Center at last became a reality,” Dr. Jordan said. “The project was realized despite being faced with so many challenges ‘s including the Russo-Georgian war last year, because of which manufacturers could not deliver to Yerevan the machines we had purchased for the Stem Cell Harvesting Center.” She said this particular issue was eventually solved by the United Armenian Fund, which transported all the required equipment to Armenia.
“With the opening of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center, we can now save Armenian and non-Armenian lives easily and cheaply,” Dr. Jordan continued. “This is why it’s so critical to continue supporting the work of the ABMDR. In this respect, our next major project is the establishment of a transplant center.”
Two years in the making, the Stem Cell Harvesting Center was made possible through lead gifts by ABMDR Board member Dr. Carolann Najarian, an anonymous donor, and the Glendale Sunrise Rotary, followed by contributions from the Lincy Foundation, the Disney Foundation, VivaCell of Armenia, and various Armenian organizations, as well as hundreds of donors responding to the ABMDR Telethon. With a total of $850,000 raised, the registry was able to fully renovate the Stem Cell Harvesting Center site, provide it with state-of-the-art equipment, and train personnel. Slated to open on April 28, the center is expected to receive full accreditation by the European Federation of Immunogenetics.
According to Dr. Vergine Madenlian, the ABMDR’s outreach and development officer and a biochemistry lecturer at California State University, Northridge, the opening of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center is a medical milestone not only for Armenia and the Caucasus, but Armenians throughout the world. The center recruits bone marrow/stem cell donors from predominantly Armenian populations worldwide, analyzes and determines the HLA tissue type of donors, and maintains a database. Once it receives a request from a patient requiring stem cell transplantation, the ABMDR finds matches in its own or other registries worldwide and facilitates the transplantation.
Dr. Madenlian, who has volunteered for the ABMDR since 2004, added that 50 percent of the registry’s over 14,000 donors are below 28 years old, making the ABMDR internationally recognized as one of the world’s most dynamic ‘s and healthiest ‘s registries. “It’s just one more reason that makes volunteering for the ABMDR such a spiritually rewarding experience,” she said.
Following Dr. Jordan’s address, Alicia Asmarian, Naz Atikian, and Ani Azar of the ABMDR announced the registry’s annual gala, “Match For Life 2009,” which will be held on July 12 at the Glendale Hilton. The event will raise funds for advocacy, education, and the registry’s ongoing life-saving services.
Next to take the podium were Dr. Evelyn Baghdasarian and Lilit Aladadyan of the ABMDR, who informed the guests of the registry’s next walkathon, “Walk of Life 2009,” slated to take place on October 3 at Glendale’s Verdugo Park. The event, which will include entertainment, music, and dancing, is being organized to raise funds for the registry’s activities as well as to recruit stem cell donors.
For an inside look at the ABMDR’s work, Fimi Mekhitarian, a longtime volunteer and West Coast recruitment officer, spoke of a recent FaceBook appeal for a 21-year-old Armenian man diagnosed with acute leukemia and requiring an urgent stem cell transplant. “There’s been an outpouring of grassroots support following the appeal,” Mekhitarian said. “Today the young man’s family and friends are organizing a stem cell donor recruitment, and this is where we come in. In fact, we have recruitments lined up for San Francisco, Chicago, and Florida. We’re literally having a field day recruiting donors.”
The evening’s speakers also included Dr. Stuart Siegal, an early ABMDR supporters who has had an instrumental role in helping Dr. Jordan establish the registry. Commenting on the launch of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center, Dr. Siegal said, “One of the most wonderful outcomes of this project is that you see tangible results in terms of saving lives.”
Among the evening’s guest were many who have been impacted by life-threatening, blood-related illnesses. One such individual was Razmik Moghadasian, whose nine-year-old son lost his battle with leukemia in 2007. Even though a stem cell donor was found through the ABMDR at that time, a relapse in the child’s condition prevented a transplant. “I see the ABMDR as an insurance policy for everyone,” said Moghadasian, who has since volunteered for the ABMDR. “If everyone had a donor [through the registry], everyone would be safe.”
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 14,000 donors across three continents, identified 1,276 patients, found 821 potential matches, and facilitated nine bone marrow transplants.
For more information, call (323) 663-3609 or visit abmdr.am.