AYF Providence “Varantian” Chapter celebrates and appreciates at Victory Ball

Michael Varadian dancing with his grandson, Jack Vartanian, the next generation of Providence AYF members (Photo: GVK Images)

PROVIDENCE, RI More than 250 community members and supporters of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Providence “Varantian” Chapter gathered on Saturday at Egavian Hall for the annual Victory Ball to celebrate the chapter’s successes in the past year. The “V-Ball”, as it is nicknamed, has been organized every year in Providence for over eight decades. The 2023 edition of the event was the first held since 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns in 2021 and 2022. 

The evening’s emcee, Nareh Mkrtschjan, a recent AYF alumna, welcomed the crowd. The evening began with the singing of the national and organizational anthems, followed by a moment of silence for the recently deceased AYF alumni and community members. A delicious dinner catered by Sonia’s Market was served following opening prayers from Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church and Rev. Fr. Shnork Souin of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church.

The program began by recognizing the chapter’s honorary members, a chapter tradition to honor and recognize those alumni who have devoted their lives to the AYF-YOARF and its goals and mission. Steve Elmasian gave a special presentation honoring the lives of two giants within the Providence community.

2023 Providence AYF Honorary Members Maro Dionisopoulos and Harry Kushigian (GVK Images)

Maro Garabedian Dionisopoulos has been involved with the AYF-YOARF since her early days as a Junior in the 1950s. As Elmasian described, Garabedian Dionisopoulos has had a “love affair with the Providence AYF for her entire life.” In recognition of her devotion, she received the Varadian Spirit Award at the 2009 AYF Olympics in Providence. The daughter of Genocide survivors, Garabedian Dionisopoulos has always worked for the Armenian Cause. In 1961, she participated as an AYF-YOARF member at the steps of the United Nations, calling for recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Garabedian Dionisopoulos continued her support through her later years by joining the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) and was honored as Mother of the Year by the local “Arax” chapter in 2019. She has also been honored by the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Rhode Island and the Providence ARF Kristapor Gomideh. Garabedian Dionisopoulos had a 35-year career at Roger Williams University, where she ultimately retired in 2004 after serving many years as an assistant to the Dean of Continuing Education.

Maro Dionisopoulos front and center on the dance floor (GVK Images)

Harry Kushigian is a name that many know far and wide due to his decades of involvement with the AYF-YOARF and AYF Camp Haiastan. A son of Genocide survivors, Kushigian began his early years as a football star at Mount Pleasant High School, earning All-American and eventually playing for scholarship at West Point and Boston College. Kushigian began his lifelong involvement in the Armenian community in the AYF-YOARF and continued after his AYF graduation. He served on the Sts. Vartanantz Board of Trustees, AYF-YOARF Central Executive, endless church and organizational committees and was honored as an AYF Olympic King in 2009. Many know him as “Baron Harry,” as he served as director of AYF Camp Haiastan as well as on the Camp’s board of directors. His proudest contribution on the Camp board is the establishment of the Founders’ Day presentation, given annually to the incoming Camp staff, preserving the legacy of those who built the Camp with their own hands. 

Harry Kushigian (GVK Images)

The chapter is fortunate to have these role models to inspire its Junior and Senior members and would like to extend its sincere congratulations to both of these honorees on a lifetime of achievement and dedication to the “Varantian” chapter. Both honorees offered heartfelt remarks of gratitude to the Providence “Varantian” Chapter for the recognition, as well as words of encouragement to current and prospective AYF members, specifically regarding fraternalism and Hai Tahd. 

Graduating Providence AYF members with 2023 Honorary Members (GVK Images)

Outgoing Junior and Senior presidents Garo Tarbinian and Alexan Topalian spoke on behalf of the Providence chapter’s activities over the past years, including the many fundraisers and donations that were organized, along with an AYF Olympic win in 2021 and a softball championship in 2022. The Providence Chapter graduated 10 outstanding Seniors between 2020 and 2022: Levon Zobian, Alysha Phillips, Sylvahna Menissian, Galin Tashian, Aram Zobian, Sevan Zobian, Nareh Mkrtschjan, Jason Pjojian, David Sears and Alexan Topalian. These members have served as the backbone in Providence for many years and were thanked for their countless hours of service to the organization. 

ARF advisor to the chapter Ani Arakelian gave remarks on the improved direction the chapter has taken within the past few years and the continued success ahead in 2023. Lastly, chapter coach Ken Topalian highlighted the team and individual successes that the chapter has seen after several years of a concerted effort to bring as many Armenian youth into the chapter as possible. He also touched upon the hard work and dedication that the chapter members committed ahead of the 2021 and 2022 AYF Olympic Games.

The drawing of the annual fundraising raffle was held following the speeches. All of the proceeds from the raffle will be donated to the Junior chapter to help defray the costs of their bus trip to AYF Junior Seminar in Pennsylvania. Juniors helped to sell tickets, successfully raising over $750 for their chapter. 

Providence AYF-YOARF Juniors and Seniors posing with the AYF Olympic Cup (Photo: GVK Images)

At the conclusion of the raffle drawings, all the current “Varantians” gathered on the dance floor to take their annual chapter picture and kick off the dance, as the extremely talented Yerakouyn Band played the Providence AYF’s celebratory song, Hey Djan.

Providence AYF members dancing their celebratory Hey Djan (GVK Images)

The dance continued through midnight with Shant Massoyan, Aram Hovagimian, Raffi Massoyan and Steve Vosbikian, Jr., playing traditional and revolutionary Armenian songs.

Raffi Massoyan and Steve Vosbikian (Photo: GVK Images)

Ten percent of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to the AYF-YOARF Eastern Region’s “Together for Artsakh” fund.

The Providence AYF “Varantian” Chapter would like to extend its gratitude to everyone for their continued support. The chapter would also like to thank Der Shnork and Marc Janigian from Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church for being gracious hosts in their Egavian Hall. 

AYF Providence "Varantian" Chapter

AYF Providence "Varantian" Chapter

Founded in 1934, the Providence "Varantian" Chapter works to unite Armenian youth and organize activities in the Providence, Rhode Island area. The chapter has a Senior and Junior chapter. The Providence "Varantian" Chapter sets out to achieve its goals and objectives throughout the year through events such as the Varantian Ball, Junior Seminar fundraisers, flag raisings on April 24 and support for the Cranston Sports Card Show. The AYF-YOARF's five pillars (athletic, cultural, educational, political, social) guide this chapter and help keep its membership active and at the forefront of the Armenian Cause at all times.

1 Comment

  1. I was delighted to see the recognition to two ungers, Maro and Harry, for their lifetime
    efforts in Providence.

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