The Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP) had the distinct privilege of honoring both a very close corporate partner and a generous benefactor and friend who has sadly passed on during the nonprofit organization’s annual Gala fundraiser in Newport Beach, California.
A Decades-Long Partnership with CHLA
A close partner and collaborator for nearly 15 years, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) was honored as the AECP’s Corporate Honoree at the organization’s event. In attendance was president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Paul Viviano, CHLA Division Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Thomas Lee and several other staff members from the notable hospital who work regularly with the AECP team in Armenia on various initiatives, including Dr. Eyal Ben-Issac, Dr. Armine Lulejian, Jenia Ghazarian and more.
“We are thrilled to be here tonight to celebrate our 14-year history with the Armenian EyeCare Project and the lives of all the children we have touched during that time,” Viviano said during the gala. “What started as a targeted program to train ophthalmologists on how to diagnose and treat a devastating form of childhood blindness has blossomed into a larger training mission to educate not just doctors but also nurses and hospital leaders on how to prepare for the future of Armenia.”
Since their involvement began in 2009, CHLA has been instrumental in the success of AECP’s pediatric program in Armenia, dedicated to advancing eye care for infants and children and eliminating preventable blindness caused by retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and other childhood eye diseases. Since this time, CHLA’s continued commitment to serve the people of Armenia has expanded through several additional joint programs with AECP through the years. This includes the opening of a Neonatal Simulation Center inside the AECP’s Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness in Yerevan; the implementation of a large-scale School Screening Program throughout Armenia for school-aged children; the provision of educational resources and training opportunities for medical staff in Armenia including neonatal nurses, mental health professionals and more; and participating as a consistent co-organizer of the AECP-CHLA Annual Conference held in Yerevan, Armenia every year.
CHLA has helped the AECP leverage innovative solutions to touch the lives of thousands of children in Armenia. They have used telemedicine to train physicians in Armenia who have now performed more than 35,000 screenings for ROP and 950 surgeries. As a result of this partnership, no child in Armenia has gone blind from this debilitating eye disease since 2018.
“We are committed to the lives of all children whether they are in Los Angeles or halfway around the world,” Viviano said. “Our commitment to Armenia will continue, and we are so grateful to have the Armenian EyeCare Project as our steadfast partner in helping us in our mission.”
Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend
Also honored at the gala was a great benefactor and dear friend of the AECP, the late Luther Khachigian, who passed away in June 2023. A longtime supporter of the AECP, Khachigian contributed greatly to the organization’s many sight-saving initiatives in Armenia over the years. These included the funding of several pieces of cutting-edge medical equipment used to diagnose and treat eye disease as well as the underwriting of an entire Regional Eye Center in the country. Named after his father, who Khachigian loved and respected very much, the John Ohannes Khachigian AECP Regional Eye Center was developed and opened in Gyumri, the second-largest city in Armenia, in 2017.
“Luther was not only a great supporter and a generous and committed benefactor, he was also a very dear friend,” AECP founder Dr. Roger Ohanesian shared. “He was instrumental in providing long-term support to various AECP initiatives and always stressed the importance of getting more Armenians involved.”
Many of Khachigian’s family and friends were present at the AECP gala to watch him being honored posthumously. This included Khachigian’s son Luther Khachigian II, Khachigian’s younger brother Ken Khachigian, and others. During the event, Luther II shared that his father’s extraordinary generosity would continue through Khachigian’s bequest.
Presenting the AECP with a generous contribution from his father’s estate, Luther II said that it was an honor for his father to be remembered by AECP and pledged more support for the organization through Khachigian’s estate in the coming year.
As thousands of patients continue to be treated at Khachigian’s regional center in Gyumri and with news of his legacy funding, there is no doubt that Khachigian’s tremendous impact and contribution to eye care in Armenia will be felt for generations to come.