This was the fifth annual Wisconsin orphanage benefit event, and by far the most successful to date. Since 2010, the committee has raised more than $85,000 within Wisconsin.
Guest of honor at the banquet was George Yacoubian Jr., of Philadelphia, executive director of SOAR, who commended the local organizing committee for its humanitarian spirit. The program was emceed Dr. Chuck Hajinian, co-president of the Wisconsin SOAR chapter, who gave additional insight on the needs of orphans in Syria and Armenia. This year’s event honored famous Wisconsin Armenian golfers Archie Dadian, Chuck Pehlivanian, and Kay Mikaelian. A silent auction included a number of exceptional donated items, including golf and condo vacations, gift baskets, medieval Armenian coins, original artwork and handmade lace, sports memorabilia, fine jewelry, Armenian brandy and more. Mike Bode also ran a vigorous live auction for a few highly desirable items.
“Given the enormous humanitarian crisis facing the Armenian community in Syria, the great majority of the funds raised this year will be allocated to aiding three orphanages in Syria where Armenian children reside,” said Dr. Hajinian. “Damages to these facilities has been extensive and basic items are in short supply. Donations received will go a long way toward alleviating those needs.”
Sadly, a few days before the golf outing, Wisconsin SOAR Co-president Terry Hadjinian Peterson passed away after a long battle with cancer, and the event was dedicated to her memory. “Terry was a dedicated and energetic member of our board,” said Dr. Levon Saryan, treasurer of the Wisconsin SOAR chapter. “Her absence will be deeply felt. But we know she would have wanted the event to go forward.”
Numerous worthwhile projects have been funded by Wisconsin SOAR in recent years, including rebuilding a fire-damaged orphanage in Yerevan, establishing a functioning dental clinic, providing warm clothes and bedding, and supporting orphan summer camps to provide physical and social enrichment for children during the summer months.
When asked why he was organizing this effort, Hajinian replied: “Look into the eyes of these orphan children. These were the eyes of my grandmother who grew up in an orphanage along with a hundred thousand others from 1915. Today, we Armenians now party with a purpose. Join us next year, we are looking for helpers, or for more information, send an email to Hajinian@yahoo.com.” Prior to the outing the Racine Journal Times published an extensive feature article focusing on the orphans from 1915 and the present.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, SOAR now has dozens of chapters across the US and in many countries around the world. SOAR provides financial and moral support for Armenian orphans and helps to address their unique needs.
The Wisconsin organizing committee consisted of Dr. Chuck and Mary Kay Hajinian, Terry Hadjinian Peterson, Dr. David and Eddi Schmitt, Harold and Kathleen Aghjian and family, Levon and Shirley Saryan, Dr. Gary, Nancy and William Seabrook, Mike and Lori Bode (who together organized the tournament and the auctions), Kathy Lestina, Jason, Anne and Sam Samuelian, AJ and Sarah Bianchi, and Vahan and Dawn Kamalian. Substantial support was also provided Ara Cherchian, Dr. Stacy and Steve Michels, and Danny and Kari D’Acquisto. The event could not have been a success without help from numerous volunteers, including William Seabrook, Sona Mikaelian, Dr. Ani Saryan, Armen Saryan, John Palmar and Victoria White. The golf event itself was organized by golf pro Jason Samuelian and his staff at Meadowbrook CC.
Contributions to SOAR-Wisconsin are still being accepted. Checks may be mailed to SOAR-Wisconsin, c/o Dr. Levon Saryan, PO Box 210313, Milwaukee, WI 53221-8006.