AYF-YOARF Juniors shine at this year’s Junior Winter Olympics

More than 200 Junior members of the Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern Region participated in the annual Junior Winter Olympics (JWO) last weekend.

The Midwest JWO was hosted by the the Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Chapter, while the Mid-Atlantic/New England JWO was hosted by the New York “Hyortik” Chapter. The event was organized by the Central Athletic Council and Central Junior Council, along with local members of the community.

Junior participants of Junior Winter Olympics (JWO) in New York (Photo: Saro Kargeozian)

Mid-Atlantic/New England

AYF-YOARF Junior and Senior members arrived at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Douglaston, New York on Friday night. The following morning, AYF members enjoyed a bagel breakfast then headed to P.S./I.S. 208 School in Queens to begin the games. Juniors from 10 different chapters competed in tavloo, chess, checkers and basketball tournaments, while Senior members and parents cheered them on. This year, many basketball teams consisted of Juniors from different chapters, allowing them to bond and work together to showcase their collective sportsmanship. Senior members from the chapters also came together to coach their mixed teams, adding another element of camaraderie to the weekend.

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The Washington D.C. “Sevan” Chapter dominated the older boys basketball tournament, while the New Jersey “Arsen” and New York “Hyortik” combined older girls team reigned over their competition. Lunch was served at noon in the cafeteria, where Juniors could be found playing intense games of tavloo, chess and checkers. 

New Junior members taking their AYF-YOARF oath at the end of the tournament (Photo: Saro Karageozian)

One of the most special moments of the weekend was when three new AYF-YOARF Juniors took their organizational oath in front of over 150 of their fellow Junior members, officially commencing what we are certain will be long and fruitful AYF-YOARF careers. 

After a long day of friendly competition, the AYF members went back to St. Sarkis Church for dinner, served by the New York “Hyortik” Chapter and community members, followed by an awards ceremony announcing the final champions of the weekend. The New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter came out on top with the most overall points, with the Washington D.C. “Sevan” Chapter in second place and New York “Hyortik” Chapter in third. The night ended with a vibrant dance including traditional lively Armenian music. 

Senior referees (Photo: Saro Karageozian)

“Seeing the weekend with 150 sign-ups successfully unfold with all Junior chapters together was the most rewarding. There’s nothing better than seeing Senior members present and setting an example for our Juniors, while instilling the spirit of this weekend as an athletic pillar of the AYF.” – Juliet Hagopian, president of New York “Hyortik” Senior Chapter

“I had a great time at JWO. I was very happy to see all my friends, play sports and spend time with my fellow ungers and ungerouhis.” – Sarhad Melkonian, president of New Jersey “Arsen” Junior Chapter 

“I had a great time competing with my friends and winning for my chapter. It was awesome to see other chapters and friends all come together for a weekend of memories and fun.” – Daron Hovsepian, Washington D.C. “Sevan” Junior Chapter 

“It’s always so fun to see Juniors from around the region come together to participate in some of their favorite sports! All the Juniors always have an amazing time, and regardless of the competition, continue to uphold our values of maintaining an ungeragan spirit with all their fellow ungers and ungerouhis.”  – Leana Hacopian, Junior advisor of New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter 

“JWO is a fun event that involves multiple different AYF chapters, which allows for members to make Armenian friends from around the country. Unlike other AYF events, it incorporates a competitive aspect, with games such as basketball, chess, checkers and backgammon. JWO is one of the more sports-based AYF events and one that I would definitely recommend for Armenian athletes trying to make new connections and memories.”  – Nick Lopez, Philadelphia “Sebouh” Junior Chapter 

The following winners were announced during the awards ceremony: 

  • Tavloo: Allen Mirek, New Jersey “Arsen”
  • Chess: Haig Penenian, Washington D.C. “Sevan” 
  • Checkers: Aleen Kalayjian, New Jersey “Arsen”
  • Younger Boys Basketball: Albany/Manhattan/New Jersey combined team
  • Younger Girls Basketball: Albany/New Jersey/New York combined team
  • Older Boys Basketball: Washington D.C. “Sevan” 
  • Older Girls Basketball: New Jersey/New York combined team 
Junior Participants of Junior Winter Olympics (JWO) in Detroit (Photo: Raffi Sarrafian)


More than 600 miles away, the Midwest Junior Winter Olympics was a very active and eventful day. Juniors competed in many sports such as volleyball, basketball, chess, tavloo and more. The Juniors arrived at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Dearborn, Michigan the evening of Friday, March 8 full of excitement and energy. On Saturday morning, Junior and Senior members had breakfast together and walked over to the gymnasium to kick off the games.

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Following lunch, the Juniors competed in basketball, in which the Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” older girls and boys teams defeated both respective Chicago “Ararat” teams. At the conclusion of the basketball competition, the Juniors competed against each other in dodgeball and closed the day with dinner and bowling at a local alley. 

Juniors having fun at bowling social (Photo: Raffi Sarrafian)

After bowling, the Juniors returned to St. Sarkis Church and enjoyed a movie to end an eventful and memorable day of fraternal competition.

“I was so happy to see so many young AYF members coming together and participating in various athletic and social activities, while epitomizing the fraternal attitude, respect and good sportsmanship with one another. The future of the AYF is bright and strong, and I look forward to seeing all of those happy faces grow to become the future leaders in our communities.” – Alex Kurkechian, president of Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Senior Chapter

“It was so fun! I loved the basketball games. And I loved playing with different Armenian kids in the chapters. I had an amazing time! Detroit puts on a good show!” – Aline Killian, Chicago “Ararat” Junior Chapter 

 “JWO is a great experience for meeting people from other chapters and to create bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. My favorite part is playing basketball and volleyball in the gym. You are surrounded by your best friends just laughing and playing for the fun of it!” – Marissa Kazarian, Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Junior Chapter 

“Watching the Juniors play and form friendships at JWO gives me great hope for not only the AYF but the Armenian diaspora as a whole.” – Mourad Tossounian, Junior Advisor of Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” 

The following winners were announced at the awards ceremony:

  • Tavloo: Remy Kako, Chicago “Ararat” 
  • Chess: Zaven Andonian, Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” 
  • Younger Group Basketball: Detroit/Chicago mixed team 
  • Older Boys Basketball: Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” 
  • Older Girls Basketball: Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” 

The Central Executive would like to thank the Central Athletic Council and Central Junior Council for their crucial help and support in planning and executing this year’s iteration of the Junior Winter Olympics.

Central Athletic Council:

Greg Cormier, chair (Greater Boston “Nejdeh)
Shant Alashaian (New Jersey “Arsen”)
Daron Hamparian (Greater Boston “Nejdeh”)
Karina Hananian (Greater Boston “Nejdeh”)
Armen Surenian (Chicago “Ararat”)
Armen Oknayan (Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian”)
Melanie Sarafian (Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian”)
Alex Vartanian (New Jersey “Arsen”)

Central Junior Council:

Christiane Ezgilioglu, chair (New Jersey “Arsen”)
Arya Balian (Manhattan “Moush”)
Meghri Dervartanian (Greater Boston “Nejdeh”)
Galy Jackmakjian (Washington D.C. “Ani”)
Vartkaes Pamboukian (Washington D.C. “Ani”)
Raffi Sarrafian (Chicago “Ararat”)

We look forward to seeing all of our Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and New England Juniors come together at the upcoming 52nd Annual AYF-YOARF Junior Seminar in Ligonier, PA.

Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.

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