Friday, November 25, 2011

Armenian Adoption Adventure, Armenian Relief Mission and Dr. Steve Kashian

Sardarbad Dance Ensemble perform at ARM's Benefit.

Dr. Kashian has been a tireless supporter of Armenian Orphanages and overseeing of many health care projects.!prettyPhoto

Steve Kashian and his wife Rozik have a vision that can, and will, change the world.

The Winnetka residents' mission is one that has fostered widespread community support, proven by the strong attendance at a benefit for the Kashian's charity organization, Armenian Relief Mission, at The Winnetka Club on Nov. 19.

"[ARM has] grown into something that's really captivated our lives," Steve said.

Steve, a Winnetka physician, was summoned to Armenia in 1992 after he got a phone call from a friend who asked if he could help provide medication to the country's northern Lori region.

The need was just one of many resulting from a massive earthquake that occurred in Spitak in 1988, which killed more than 25,000 Armenians. The earthquake left orphans, limited resources and widespread housing destruction in its wake.

Steve gathered medical supplies and went to Armenia for 10 days, leaving behind the medicine and also a sense of hope for the struggling country.

"He came back a changed man," Rozik said.

Many others worked to provide some sort of relief to Armenia, but Steve made a commitment to keep coming back.

Steve worked to build, staff and establish a medical clinic in the city of Vandzor, which opened in 1995. The clinic provides free diagnostics, care and pharmaceuticals to approximately 6,000 Armenians each year.

Rozik hadn't planned to get involved, but she traveled to Armenia in 1998.

The Kashians were asked to provide duffel bags, which they learned were for orphans who were kicked out of orphanages at the age of 17 or 18.

The boys typically turn to the military, but the girls are left with less attractive choices.

Shortly after, the Kashians officially established ARM.

Just what the doctor ordered

The effort has blossomed to include regular trips and assistance in three cities and five locations, including orphanages and the medical clinic.

"[Steve] donates his own time and goes there on his own. There should be more of us doing these things like him ... think how busy a doctor is. Hats off to him," said Richard Anderson, a Lake Bluff resident who attended the benefit.

Anderson can testify to Steve's kindness, having had him as a doctor for 10 years now. Anderson was recently diagnosed with cancer and was having surgery performed by another doctor.

The week before his surgery, Steve called him to his office so that they could pray together.

"There's a point in our lives when we have to say 'I'm successful, but am I doing something significant?'" Steve said during a speech at the benefit.

For both the Kashians, and many friends in the room, the answer to the question was yes. More than 50 North Shore residents have made the trip to Armenia since ARM was established.

Among those recruits is Jim Baney, of Northfield, who has volunteered to help out in Armenia seven times.

Baney has been active in various efforts, including maintenance of the medical clinic in Vanadzor, food distribution through ARM's winter relief program, visiting the orphanages and building a playground.

The playground sets have been donated by local villages, including Wilmette, Northbrook and Glenview, which were getting new equipment for various reasons.

Jim Hinkler, of Wilmette, has gone to Armenia twice this year, providing medication for hemophiliacs in July and installing a playground set in October.

Although each contributes to a very different cause, both are of unmistakable value.

"When you play on a playground set, you build social skills that are going to be helpful later in life. They never had a playground set ... now they do," Hinkler said.

For Robert Mardirossian, executive director of Family Service of Winnetka-Northfield, the cause is one that "resonates in [his] heart."

Although he has not yet made the trip to Armenia, he and his wife, M. Lavin, have talked about adding it to their bucket list.

Growing needs

The Kashians aimed to raise $100,000 at the benefit.

The funds are earmarked to support the creation of a new facility, a "safe home" where girls will be able to go and learn skills essential to being independent.

The remaining dollars will go toward an ultrasound machine, which will replace a broken machine that is the only one in the region.

For more information about the Armenian Relief Mission, visit