Local "Elvis" Harry Shahoian Makes Good, Meets Armenian Queen, Raises Funds for Charity


YEREVAN, ARMENIA – Never in his wildest dreams did Harry Shahoian think he

would be meeting the First Lady of Armenia, let alone in a skin-tight

jumpsuit. However, on January 8 the Elvis impersonator from Las Vegas was

graciously welcomed as the night’s featured performer by First Lady Bella

Kocharian, Honorary Chairperson of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry

(ABMDR), which celebrated its 3rd anniversary at the evening fundraising

gala at the Armenia Marriott Hotel.


And never in the wildest dreams of any of the event’s organizers did they

think the ABMDR would receive $125,000 – an unprecedented response among

fundraising events in Armenia. “We are honored to have the First Lady here

this evening, and to see so many key members of the government and business

communities making a commitment to this project,” stated ABMDR Executive

Director Sevak Avagyan. Over 200 people attended the evening event,

including high level ministers, businesspeople, medical and religious



The ABMDR is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that

every ethnic Armenian struck with a life-threatening blood-related illness

is able to find hope for long-term survival through the identification of a

genetically suitable bone marrow match. First Lady of Armenia Dr. Bella

Kocharian was the first donor to the project, which seeks to register 10,000

donors by the end of 2004.


The event was organized under the auspices of the First Lady in coordination

with the Committee of Patronage, which included Dr. Frieda Jordan, President

of the ABMDR; Dr. Norair Davidian, Minister of Health of the Republic of

Armenia; Mr. Tigran Sargsyan, President of the Central Bank of Armenia; Mrs.

Susanna Margaryan and Dr. Nani Oskanyan. Among those who supported the

event were several prominent businesses including Yerevan Jewelry Plant,

Yerevan Brandy Company, Yerevan Champagne and Wine Factory, Ijevan Wine

Factory, Armenia Marriott Hotel, Raffi Cigars, Geneva, Proctor & Gamble,

Maxrev Ltd., Tufenkian Trans Caucasus Co. Ltd., and Armentel CJSC. Others

participating in the success of the event included the Symphony Orchestra of

Armenian Public Radio and Television, conducted by Yervand Yerznkyan;

Shoghakat Television; the MA Company; several musical entertainers; and

other individuals such as Shushan Petrossian, Armen Darinyan, Inga and Anush

Arshakian. Mr. Armen Amirian, Head of the Armenian Public Radio, served as

Master of Ceremonies, introducing ABMDR Executive Director Dr. Sevak

Avagyan and a video message from ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan, who

could not be present.


An Armenian leukemia patient usually can only be saved by a bone marrow

transplant from another Armenian. Only 30% of all leukemia patients find

suitable bone marrow donors within their own families. Therefore, physicians

would have to contact the world’s bone marrow registries one by one to see

if there’s a match. However, these registries contain very few Armenian



Michele Seyranian-Topalian discovered this first-hand when she tried to find

a match for her Armenian-American daughter, Alique. From repeated

frustrations experienced by Alique’s family and other Armenian families in

failing to find a matched donor from existing bone marrow registries, it

became clear that the Armenian communities worldwide urgently needed their

own donor registry. The ABMDR was founded in 1999 to address this need.


In the short time since its inception, the ABMDR has established

tissue-typing laboratories in Yerevan, Armenia and Glendora, California;

both sites are fully equipped with state-of-the-art DNA molecular typing

equipment and qualified personnel. The recruiting center is located at

Glendale Memorial Hospital, which has been a major supporter of the project.

Showing their commitment to the project, the hospital sent their Director of

Physician Services, Vazrik Abtekian, to visit the operations in Yerevan in

May 2002, and the Mayor of Glendale toured the Yerevan laboratory in October

6, 2003. The ABMDR has also met all requirements and has been accepted as a

member of Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide organization, a network of bone

marrow donor registries.


Since December 2000, OVER 6,500 Armenians in Armenia and the United States

have registered with the ABMDR, 195 patients have been identified who need

bone marrow transplants, and 48 potential bone marrow matches have been



The first bone marrow transplant occurred at City of Hope in Los Angeles in

2003, and another one is planned for Aram, an 11-year-old patient in Poland,

this month. The publicity surrounding the ABMDR gala in Yerevan catalyzed

special efforts to raise funds for Aram’s transplantation costs, resulting

in over $25,000 collected from the Armenian community.


The success of the evening would not have been possible – or as much fun –

without the performance of Harry Shahoian, who entertained the audience with

his rendition of Elvis songs, including "Love Me Tender", "All Shook Up",

and "Stuck on You". This was not the first time Mr. Shahoian has donated his

time and talents to the ABMDR. In August 2003 he performed to a sell-out

crowd at the ABMDR “Rock for Life” event in Glendale, California, which

raised $45,000.


Others contributed to the success of the event by giving items to the

auction: an ancient Bible was donated by the Catholicos of All Armenians

Garegin the Second and a gold memorial “Tigran the Great” coin was provided

by the Central Bank of Armenia.


The tremendous success of the gala has brought the ABMDR $125,000 closer to

its goal of raising the remaining $500,000 it requires to recruit 3,500 more

donors by the end of 2004, and to sustain its linkages with the Bone Marrow

Donors Worldwide, an association which is expanding the ABMDR’s exposure

internationally, helping to identify more patients in need, and assisting in

finding matches for bone marrow transplants for years to come. Other recent

contributors to the ABMDR include the Lincy Foundation, which provided a

second grant of $100,000, and Catholic Healthcare West, which has also

provided two grants, now totaling $25,000.


Those who wish to further assist the Registry in reaching these goals may

contact ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan at 347 W. Stocker St., Suite 208,

Glendale, California 91202 , E-mail: frieda.Jordan@att.net or by calling

(818) 547-1374.