New England Community Joins Forces in Support of ABMDR Walkathon

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Fourth Annual Walk of Life Mobilizes Youth, Numerous Organizations

WATERTOWN, Mass.—Close to 250 New Englanders took part in the walkathon of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) on Sept. 26 in a strong show of grassroots support for the organization’s life-saving mission. The fourth annual New England Walk of Life, which drew the participation of numerous community organizations and an unprecedented number of young people, including students from local schools and universities, took place in Watertown.

AYF Team (Photo: ABMDR)

Once again this year, Walk of Life received major corporate sponsorship from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Other sponsors and supporters included the Armenian-American Pharmacists’ Association, PROMETRIKA LLC, Watertown Savings Bank, several local businesses, Armenia Tree Project, and the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC). The Armenian Business Network team, led by Alex Antounian, served as marshals of the walk.

Cancer survivor Gabriel Aljalian (Photo: ABMDR)

The event kicked off with an opening ceremony at the ACEC, where Sarkis Chekijian addressed the enthusiastic gathering. “Please register as potential bone marrow donors,” Chekijian urged the participants. “You never know when you may be a match for someone. Twenty-four years after I became a donor, I was identified as a first-level matched donor. Although, eventually, another donor was determined to be a better match for the particular patient, the entire donor experience, and ultimately the anticipation of being able to help someone survive a life-threatening illness, was profoundly rewarding.”

For the past several years, Chekijian has raised funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute by running in the Boston Marathon. He dedicated his 2014 run to then-five-year-old Gabriel Aljalian, who was being treated for leukemia at the time. Now doing well and with his cancer in remission, Gabriel was among the participants of the walk. After clergy blessed the event, the honor of cutting the ribbon was given to little Gabriel.

For the second consecutive year, Nairi Krafian raised the most funds as an individual walk participant (Photo: ABMDR)

The 2.2-mile walkathon started from the ACEC and concluded at Watertown Square, where the participants enjoyed great music, dancing, and food along with thousands of people attending the annual Faire on the Square festival.

In her closing remarks, Tamar Minassian Melkonian of the New England Walk of Life Committee thanked all of the organizers and sponsors, emphasizing the extraordinary grassroots and youth support the event had garnered. “We’re so pleased that this year we have over 20 organizations that came together to collaborate for this walkathon,” she said. “With your generous support, we have raised over $18,000 today. We’re especially happy to see a growing number of students among us, ranging from the elementary-school level all the way to universities across the state. Specifically we want to welcome the Armenian Students’ Associations of universities, including Harvard, Northeastern, Tufts, and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, as well as the high school Armenian Clubs, for their efforts and commitment.”

Subsequently Minassian Melkonian announced this year’s walkathon winners. The Armenian-American Pharmacists’ Association was recognized as the team to have raised the most funds. For the second year, Nairi Krafian won for having individually raised the most funds. And the St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School team was recognized as the team with the most members.

For the third consecutive year, Armenia Tree Project will plant commemorative trees in honor of the walkathon winners, as part of the #LivingCentury Initiative. “This meaningful gesture appropriately symbolizes the ‘gift of life’ which our cause represents,” Minassian Melkonian said.

St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School was awarded for having formed the largest walk team(Photo: ABMDR)

Commenting on the success of the walkathon, ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan said, “We are so very proud to have such a great Armenian community in New England, such devoted, selfless organizers and volunteers, and such an active, socially conscious youth! Together, we’re strong—and as ever determined to give the most beautiful of gifts: the gift of hope.”

A young walker and his sponsor (Photo: ABMDR)

Also congratulating ABMDR was Jeanmarie Papelian, the executive director of the Armenian Tree Project, who said, “We’re proud to partner with ABMDR New England for its Walk of Life. Both of our organizations are committed to the health and wellbeing of the Armenian people. We’re happy to be planting trees as part of the Living Century Initiative for the top three winners for the third year.”

Established in 1999, ABMDR, a non-profit organization, helps Armenians and non-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 more than 27,000 donors in 24 countries across 4 continents, identified 3,000 patients, and facilitated 20 bone marrow transplants. For more information, call (323) 663-3609 or visit

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: New England Community Joins Forces in Support of ABMDR Walkathon