Walking for Life: ABMDR New England Hosts Annual Walkathon

WATERTOWN, Mass.More than 100 supporters of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) united with friends and family this past weekend for the New England chapter’s eighth annual Walk of Life. 

Saturday’s 2.2 mile walk through the city that’s home to the third largest population of Armenians in the US was organized to raise money for the registry, which strives to find donors and matches for Armenian and non-Armenian stem cell leukemia patients in need of bone marrow or stem cell transplants.

“One person can make such a big difference,” said Lori Yogurtian of Belmont, one of the event’s marketing chairs. Armenians are genetically one of two nationalities worldwide whose bodies reject bone marrow from donors outside their nationality. 

The walkathon not only brings the Armenian community together to raise awareness for a common cause, but the ABMDR has integrated Armenians with communities around the world. “This has brought Armenia to an international level,” said Alvart Badalian, a member of the non-profit’s Board of Directors, noting the establishment of a state of the art laboratory in Armenia created by ABMDR founder Dr. Frieda Jordan 20 years ago. During AMBDR events, volunteers take cheek swab samples and send them to the lab for testing. Eventually, that information is added to an international donor database.

The ABMDR is not solely an Armenian organization; it is an international initiative belonging to a worldwide network of marrow donors. “You can save someone’s life in Germany,” said Badalian. “We won’t know if he or she is Armenian, but (the patient) may have Armenian genetics and we may be able to help you.” 

UMass Amherst senior Soleen Ghahraman volunteered for the day guiding walkers with her family. At UMass Amherst, Ghahraman says she talks about the ABMDR with the Armenian Student Association (ASA) on campus. She says her messages are creating a domino effect. “This is news to young students,” she says, “especially if they don’t have anyone involved. This is spreading the message in Amherst and the people in Amherst will also spread this to their communities.”

The ABMDR is a particularly unique organization due to the nature of life-threatening, blood-related illnesses. “You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have someone joining the registry, you can’t save someone’s life,” said Shant Der Torossian of Waltham. Since its start 20 years ago, the ABMDR has collected over 31,000 stem-cell donors in its database and has helped save the lives of 33 patients worldwide. 

Earlier this year, the local chapter hosted a comedy night fundraiser featuring Antic and Demq Show. Organizers say they’re planning for another fundraiser ahead of next year’s Walk for Life in September.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kristina Ayanian

Kristina Ayanian

Kristina Ayanian is a senior listings analyst at Nasdaq. She holds dual degrees in finance and global studies with a minor in corporate communications from Bentley University. She was a reporter for ABC's Teen Kids News, whose episode interviewing Prince Edward of England was nominated for the 2014 Emmy's. She enjoys performing and has been invited to sing and play piano at Carnegie Hall. In February 2020, Kristina was crowned Miss Boston 2020.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.