Armenian American Orphans Christmas Telethon strives to be most successful one yet

Ovanes Balayan during the 17th annual Armenian American Orphans Christmas telethon.
(Photo courtesy of Alex Kojababian)

For almost 20 years, Glendale resident and TV show host Ovanes Balayan has raised money to help disadvantaged children in Armenia by organizing the Armenian American Orphans Christmas Telethon, which is set to be held Thursday.

Balayan’s nonprofit organization, the Armenian American Orphans and Disabled Children Fund, will host the 18th annual telethon and ask viewers to donate toward the renovation of an existing facility in Spitak, Armenia, into a kindergarten, recreation center and gymnasium.

According to telethon spokesman Alex Kojababian, the renovated site will serve more than 1,000 children and will take approximately 11 months to build. Last year’s telethon helped secure enough funds to build two schools from the ground up in Gymuri, Armenia, where about 600 children now attend.

“I love kids no matter if they are Armenian or not. I started this for Armenian kids, but if I can help any kids, I will,” Balayan said.

Balayan began the telethon in 1999 with help from a wealthy partner interested in raising money for underprivileged children in Armenia, Kojababian said. During the first telethon, broadcast in Glendale, Burbank and La Crescenta, Balayan raised “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, according to Kojababian.

That money went toward a three-day Christmas celebration for children at Aram Khachaturian’s event hall in Yerevan, Armenia. Since it began, the telethon has raised money to construct nine orphanages and schools throughout Armenia, Kojababian said.

“Our annual telethon raises more than $250,000, and every year that amount is growing,” Balayan said in a statement, adding that he’s confident this year’s telethon will be the most successful one yet.

The Armenian American Orphans Christmas Telethon will be held from 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday at the ARTV station, 4401 San Fernando Road. The event will be broadcast on AABC, High Vision and ARTV.

Balayan also hosts a Sunday TV show on AABC.

“We need support, so we can help those in need,” Balayan said. “For many years, we have been able to complete our goals due to the generosity of everyone that has contributed.”

Twitter: @JeffLanda