Walk to help find donors

Organizers hope to raise awareness of how people can save lives through donating their bone marrow during the fourth annual Walk of Life today at Verdugo Park in Glendale.

The event is organized by the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry, which was founded 10 years ago and is a nonprofit organization that recruits matched, unrelated donors for bone marrow transplantations. The organization maintains a registry and data bank of information about donors and matches them with transplant recipients.

The registry has received a number of referrals from patients in Glendale who have leukemia, said biochemist Frieda Jordan, the president and founder.

“Their last hope of survival is to have a stem cell or bone marrow transplant,” she said. “Therefore, it's important for the Glendale community to get involved and get tested to see if they can be matched with the patients.”

The unique genetic makeup of Armenians makes it nearly impossible to find matches among the existing international registries, Jordan said.

The registry helps patients find donors all over the world, including non-Armenians, she said. And it is part of the National Marrow Donor Program, which is the American version of the Armenian registry, Jordan said.

“We work in conjunction with them to find matches,” she said.

The registry officials created the Walk of Life to get families, friends and local schools involved, Jordan said.

Teams of walkers from Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, Van Nuys and Montebello will participate in the walk, including 10 schools from Glendale.

Participants can register at the organization's website or between 8 and 9 a.m. today at the park.

The 5K/10K walk-run begins at 9 a.m.

There will be many related festivities throughout the event, said Burbank resident Armond Aghakhanian, chairman of Walk of Life. He is one of 20 people on the organizing committee.

Leading the warm-up exercises will be trainers from the Burbank Athletic Club.

There will be live musical entertainment, food donated by Porto's Bakery and McDonald's and more than 20 vendors.

The event is sponsored by Glendale Memorial Hospital & Health Center and cosponsored by the city of Glendale; Glendale Water & Power, which provides the bottled water; and for the first time Bank of America.

“The support of all these businesses shows they care about the community and want to participate in helping fight leukemia through their in-kind donations,” Aghakhanian said.

The organizations and businesses helping to bring the event to fruition is a diverse mix of Armenians and non-Armenians, he said.

“We're here to educate people about the deadly disease,” he said. “It's strictly about saving lives.”

During the event, registry officials will be signing up people to be tested and will be conducting preliminary testing by mouth swabs, Jordan said.

People can also come to the main office to be tested, at 3111 Los Feliz Blvd., Suite 206, Los Angeles.


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