WALTHAM, Mass. – The greater Boston area Armenian community came together as one in support of the worthy cause of combatting childhood cancer in Armenia. Close to thirty organizations and churches came together along with many donors to make the April 5 banquet at the Westin Hotel in Waltham a successful effort at raising awareness of the problems of childhood cancer patients in Armenia and fundraising for the City of Smile Charitable Foundation. The fact that Anna Hakobyan, honorary chair of the City of Smile Foundation and wife of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, headlined the program in her first visit to Boston added a definite frisson of excitement to the atmosphere that Friday night.
With at least 456 registered guests, the Westin’s banquet hall was packed as Sheriff of Middlesex County Peter Koutoujian skillfully leavened the by nature often melancholy topics discussed with his customary humor as master of ceremonies. He informed the guests that cancer, the second leading cause of death in the entire world, does not discriminate by race, geography, or any other boundaries and has affected all of our lives directly or indirectly. Koutoujian pronounced that the night is about children, and the stark and upsetting challenges that they face in Armenia. He called upon all present to work together as Armenians to help beat cancer in Armenia.
Knarik Nerkararyan sang the Armenian and American national anthems and Fr. Vasken Kouzouian of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston gave the invocation. Ani Arakelians Avakian spoke eloquent words of welcome in Armenian.
The artistic element of the evening was provided by the Erebuni Dance School and Ensemble, whose members danced in colorful Armenian costumes under the supervision of their artistic director Arman Mnatsakanyan. They also performed to a song written specifically for the City of Smile Foundation at the start of the evening while Anna Hakboyan entered the hall. Levon Hovsepian performed the moving Elegy by Arno Babajanian and later accompanied Nerkararyan when she sang Georgi Minasyan’s Siro Hasak.
Koutoujian introduced the cochairs of the City of Smile Boston Friends Committee Cynthia Kazanjian and Armine Hovhannissian as two ordinary women, not powerbrokers or celebrities, who nonetheless through their extraordinary strength and willpower managed to bring together our whole community in the struggle against cancer in Armenia and convinced Anna Hakobyan to visit Boston.
Kazanjian explained how she got involved in this issue when a 2016 visit to the Muratsan Clinic revealed children so sick they could not raise their heads off their beds. Kazanjian’s 10-year-old grandson Vaughn Krikorian was with her and afterwards out of shock he asked what they could do about this. This moved Kazanjian to act, starting with the Dana-Farber Jimmy Walk for two years. She personally went again to help the Muratsan Clinic as a volunteer in 2017 and found that the needs were indeed enormous.