As many of you know, I love to sweat away stress and spend time outdoors, but I hate to run. Somehow, thanks to my good friend and (business) partner, Heather France (who has a tradition of pretending she’s not getting older by signing up her friends to run races on her birthday), I am running the Zion Half Marathon in Utah this March. Once I got past the shock that I actually committed to doing this, I realized that I could use this as an opportunity to not only overcome the unthinkable idea of running 13+ miles at a 4,000 foot elevation, but to raise awareness and support for a cause near and dear to my heart.
My grandfather, my “Dede”, Bedros Levonian, was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide in 1915. A 7 year old boy at the time, he witnessed the brutal murders of his parents and siblings, escaped his captors in the middle of the night and found his way to an orphanage, where he was raised until the age of 18. Dede lived to tell his story, recalling much detail about the atrocities he endured. His was a story that made him the remarkable man that he was, a story that instilled in him so many of his core values - perseverance, determination, strength, faith, compassion, kindness, integrity, patience, love, loyalty and dedication, to name a few. He lived his entire life carrying these values close to his heart, and he always held his head high, proud to be an Armenian. Dede taught me that nothing is impossible with determination, dedication, strength, patience and faith. While the intent of the 1915 Genocide was to extinguish the Armenian race, it only made the survivors stronger and more determined to stay true to their Armenian roots. My grandfather instilled in our family the importance of embracing our Armenian heritage, never forgetting where we came from. My life has been inspired by my grandfather, and this is an opportunity for me to share his story and my Armenian pride with you.
My friends and I will be running this race in honor of my grandfather and all those affected by the Armenian Genocide. In doing so, I have committed to raising $1,000 for the National Park Foundation so that they can keep our national parks beautiful and provide us with opportunities like this. Thanks to the generous support of so many of my friends and family, I have reached my goal of $1,000 for National Park Foundation in just a few short hours. I am also committed to raising awareness about the Genocide and giving support to my fellow Armenians with the help of SOAR, The Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief. SOAR is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian relief to orphaned Armenian children and adults throughout the world. I will now turn my efforts to raising funds for this incredible organization that provides much needed assistance to Armenian orphans like my grandfather once was. Go to http://soar-us.org/donate.html#donation – follow the prompt and select “In Honor of Bedros Levonian”.
Thank you in advance for helping me honor my grandfather and his strength and determination, while I SOAR the mountains of Zion!