November 01, 2020

Paying it Forward

  • Նկար
    Donikyan

Chris and Tamar Donikyan

I hope Camp Nubar will also play an important role since it helped shape me into the person I am now—my confidence in meeting people and the way I interact with them, and my independence growing up. I’m proud to say that my best friends today are from camp. I hope that our daughters’ experience is similar to mine, and they feel proud to be Armenian.

When Dr. Chris Donikyan arrived at AGBU Camp Nubar for the first time as a young CIT (counselor in training), he didn’t know anyone and felt anxious about not fitting in. “But within 10 minutes,” he recalls, “there were seven people helping me unpack. The camaraderie was effortless, and has lasted a lifetime.” He spent additional summers there, welcoming many equally nervous campers, and has volunteered on the camp’s committee for several years. What he could not have imagined then was having two daughters who are campers now, and enjoying the connection to their heritage just as immensely.

His wife, Tamar (née Aydin), adds, “I was never a camper, but I love listening to Chris and his friends reminisce about camp stories like it was yesterday. Now I see Sofia and Adrina doing the same, and it’s wonderful.” Tamar’s summers hold a different kind of nostalgia: Her father’s family originated from the Vakif village near Musa Ler, and she spent her child- hood going to the same house inhabited by her family before and after the Armenian Genocide.

Both of their families left Istanbul for a better life in America in the 1960’s to 70’s—Chris’ parents to New Jersey, then St. Louis and Queens, and Tamar’s to Queens. Much of Tamar’s youth revolved around church and the ACYOA. She is currently a partner at a corporate and securities law firm. Joining AGBU Access established her more formal involvement with AGBU and she was an organizing committee member of the recent Women Shaping the World conference. She met Chris through mutual friends in 2002 and they married in 2005.

The couple visited Armenia with their children, and Tamar reflects, “I am looking to Armenia now to create an affirmative definition of being Armenian for my girls. They remember the music, the fountains and swimming in Lake Sevan. It’s these positive experiences that will keep them connected to who we are.”

Chris agrees, adding, “I hope Camp Nubar will also play an important role since it helped shape me into the person I am now—my confidence in meeting people and the way I interact with them, and my independence growing up. I’m proud to say that my best friends today are from camp. I hope that our daughters’ experience is similar to mine, and they feel proud to be Armenian.”

During college, Chris received an AGBU scholarship and went on to specialize in radiology in medical school. “I’ve had help along the way in trying to achieve my goals in life,” he says. “I’m fortunate now to be able to give back, giving someone else that chance to ultimately pay it forward.”

Since 2013, Tamar and Chris have increased their giving level to AGBU, with the most substantial support to Camp Nubar, as well as a major gift to EmpowerHer. Tamar adds, “Based on current experiences, our giving and my volunteer hours focus on causes relating to children and women. While I support these both inside and outside the Armenian community, AGBU instills confidence that the donations we make will achieve our objectives. Every time we want to support a particular need, we find AGBU has already created a program for that purpose. AGBU is a forward-thinking organization, and I appreciate the 114 years of experience they have to evolve to fit current needs.”