DELAFIELD, Wisc.—August 14, the date set for the second annual “Day on the Blue” Armenian orphanage fundraiser, dawned perfectly. The weather was sunny and delightful, a great day for a garden reception. A refreshing breeze rustled the leaves in the tall trees. On a cliff overlooking Delafield’s Lake Nagawicka, about 65 Armenians and their friends gathered at the home of Dr. Chuck and Mary Kay Hajinian to raise funds in support of the School for Disabled Orphans in Armenia’s northwestern city of Gyumri.
Orphanages in Armenia and Gyumri date from the dark days of the Armenian Genocide a century ago, when a huge orphan city was established in Alexandrapol (the name of Gyumri at the time) by the American Near East Relief. This orphanage played a key role in rescuing a generation of children who later contributed to rebuilding Armenia during the Soviet period. When the 1988 earthquake destroyed the same city, orphanages again became the means to rescue Armenian children who had been left without a home and parents. The continuing difficult economic conditions in Armenia have made orphanages permanent institutions.
The first “Day on the Blue” fundraiser, held in August last year, brought in over $7,000 for orphanage support. This year, with a few changes and additions to the program, close to $11,000 has been raised so far to benefit some of the most disadvantaged children in Armenia.
This year’s event was held with the support of Anita Anserian and Talia Jebejian at the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). Organizers from the local Armenian community included Ara and Valerie Cherchian, Dr. Levon and Shirley Saryan, Dr. Gary and Nancy Seabrook, and Mike and Lori Bode.
Light refreshments (Armenian pastries, cookies, brownies, and lahmajoon) were prepared by Mary Kay Hajinian, Nancy Seabrook, Shirley Saryan, and Teri Peterson. Refreshments were also provided by Ara and Valerie Cherchian.
Guests were able to appreciate the Hajinian’s collection of art and antiquities. In a special glass case, Chuck Hajinian displayed his latest acquisition, an original Armenian scroll manuscript made in Vaspurakan province in 1728. Hanging in frames on the wall were a rare original print by Armenian artist Martiros Saryan, etchings by Armenian engraver Edgar Chahine, and the works of numerous other artists, including those of Garbo.
A special Armenian wine and beer tasting table was set up by Levon Saryan, with samples of Mardik pomegranate wine and Kotayk lager beer. Tasters found both varieties to be excellent.
As new features for 2011, Gary Seabrook offered escorted pontoon boat rides on Lake Nagawicka, and Shirley Saryan gave introductory Armenian dance instruction on the patio, which were enjoyed by Armenian and non-Armenian guests alike.
The highlight of the afternoon was a silent auction, another new feature this year. Up for bids were several pieces of original artwork and Armenian souvenirs, golf vacations, jewelry, wine, a handmade quilt, and other items. The silent auction alone contributed nearly $2,000 to the total amount raised. Proceeds from a CABI fashion show held a few days afterward added to the total.
When asked why he was organizing this effort, Chuck Hajinian replied: “Many of us Armenians would not be here today if it weren’t for orphanages and relief agencies 95 years ago. Now it is our turn. For the cost of a meal at a nice restaurant, we can make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children in Armenia.”
This event is taking on a national character. An encouraging aspect of the fundraiser was the participation of donors from other states, including Texas, Kansas, New York, Missouri, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
One hundred percent of the funds raised this year will support essential needs at the Gyumri School for Disabled Orphans. Contributions are still being accepted by the AGBU; mark your checks “Day on the Blue Event” and send to 55 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022-1112.
The organizers hope to sponsor this event annually. To become a sponsor, donate silent auction items, or for more information, contact Chuck Hajinian by calling (262) 352-4140 or e-mailing Hajinian@yahoo.com.