NEW YORK — More than 400 guests from around the world gathered at Cipriani 25 Broadway in support of the 16th Annual Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Holiday Gala on December 14. This year’s benefit surpassed previous fundraising numbers with more than $6 million raised in support of COAF’s programs in 51 villages, as well as the cutting-edge SMART Center built in the Lori region of Armenia.
The evening was hosted by Emmy Award-winning anchor Araksya Karapetyan from FOX 11’s “Good Day LA” in Los Angeles. Actress Andrea Martin, known for emceeing most of COAF’s galas, was unable to join this year due to a special performance. A personal video message from Martin welcoming Karapetyan and guests was shown just before Karapetyan took the stage. In her opening remarks, Karapetyan spoke of being born in Gyumri during the earthquake of 1988 and emigrating to the US shortly after.
In his address, COAF Founder and Chairman Garo Armen touched on today’s Armenia whose leadership is setting a high bar. He spoke of the newfound hope and energy in Armenia, marked by respect and love among the people for their country. Armen emphasized that there is a short window to build on this momentum, making it critical that we invest in the current generation so that they build on the foundations that are rapidly forming.
This year’s Humanitarian Award was presented to Jack and Zarig Youredjian of Los Angeles in recognition of their generous support for various COAF initiatives throughout rural Armenia. Both come from families committed to community life and helping those less fortunate. In addition to supporting Armenia, their philanthropic efforts also help the impoverished in Africa and Southeast Asia, as well as the homeless in Los Angeles. In his remarks, Jack Youredjian recalled how his late mother would visit and live with families who were forced to live in containers in the aftermath of the Spitak Earthquake and how helping those in need is ingrained in his upbringing.
Speakers included Donna Kalajian Lagani, former senior vice president and publishing director overseeing Cosmo, Women’s Health, 17 and Global Brand Licensing, who currently oversees the Hearst Foundation. She spoke about her Armenian parents teaching her the importance of family, education and giving back to those less fortunate. Her parents wanted her to live her full potential and that is what COAF is doing for the children of Armenia as well.
Celebrity makeup artist Hrush Achemyan of Los Angeles also spoke on how grateful she is for all that she has accomplished in her career due to the endless opportunities offered in the US. She stressed how COAF’s mission is so vital in providing youth with opportunities for advancement and allowing the new generation of Armenia to reach its full potential.