FRANKLIN, Mass.—Camp Haiastan celebrated a momentous occasion on Sunday, July 23, with the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony of its Under the Trees and Cabin Circle improvement projects. This remarkable initiative marks a significant milestone in the camp’s history, promising a new chapter of growth and preservation of Armenian heritage. The event, attended by well over 500 community members, leaders and enthusiastic camp alumni, was filled with excitement and a strong sense of pride in their rich cultural heritage. Many attendees came just to be back on the campgrounds.
The Vision behind the Under the Trees Project and Cabin Circle Improvements
The Under the Trees and Cabin Circle projects are the culmination of a visionary effort to enhance the overall camp experience. Spearheaded by a dedicated team of volunteers, donors and supporters, the project aimed to improve the outdoor gathering spaces and provide additional areas for campers to come together, learn and create lasting memories. The improvements included revival of the landscaping, additional seating, a new irrigation system and better water drainage across the Under The Trees site.
The dedication of these spaces added further meaning to the sites. Under the Trees was dedicated to Mark Alashaian of New Jersey, one of the Camp’s longest-serving board members, with a rededication to another New Jersey Armenian community member, Vaghinag Koroghlian for whom the existing Under the Trees was built and dedicated in 1982. The Cabin Circle renovation was dedicated in memory of Regina Najarian of Wellesley, Massachusetts, who passed away last June after a courageous battle with cancer.
The Ceremony: A Celebration of Unity and Gratitude
On the heels of the first Camp Picnic since 2019, hosted by the Providence ARF “Kristapor” Gomideh, the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony were a testament to the unwavering commitment of the Armenian community to preserving its heritage. Attendees gathered under the Hye Hope Pavilion where the energy was palpable and the atmosphere felt magical.
Distinguished guests, including community leaders and family members of those being remembered, spoke passionately about the significance of the project and Camp Haiastan. Board member Michael Bahtiarian opened the program saying, “We’re back!” and noting that it was the first event since the pandemic. Board chair Hratch Najarian emphasized the profound impact the camp has on shaping the identity and values of Armenian youth and how the Under the Trees and Cabin Circle updates would elevate this impact to new heights. Former Board chair Michael Guzelian spoke on behalf of the Alashaian family about what camp meant to Mark and recollected that during visiting Sundays you always could see Mark sitting quietly Under the Trees.
Sarine Adishian read a congratulatory message from Bege Koroghlian, Vaghinag’s wife, who could not attend the event. The old plaque was removed by Camp Facilities manager John Miller and handed to Adishian, also from New Jersey, to return to the Koroghlian family. New, larger plaques were installed as part of the project. Lastly, Berj Najarian spoke about his late wife Regina and what camp meant to the couple. Their two sons are both attending camp this season; Avi during Teen Session and Sebu is a Staff In Training (SIT).
Finally, there was a surprise visit by Camp Haiastan executive director Kenar Charchaflian, who is presently on maternity leave following the birth of her son. She spoke about the connection of camp and our community to the situation in Armenian and Artsakh, noting, “We must remember that in times of struggle and hardship just like our nation currently faces in Artsakh, Camp Haiastan stands as a beacon of hope and resilience. It reminds us that we are the guardians of our lands that we must secure and that our continuity depends on our unwavering commitment to preserving our roots.”
The ribbon-cutting moment was filled with excitement and emotion. As the symbolic ribbons were cut by Mark Alashaian’s sons, Armen and Shant, and Berj, Sebu and Avi Najarian, the crowds erupted in cheers, marking the official opening of the newly-established gathering spaces. Very Rev. Fr. Ardag Arabian of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Worcester was on hand to bless the two renovations, along with Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church of Providence, RI.
A Promising Future for Camp Haiastan
The dedication of the Under the Trees and Cabin Circle spaces represents more than just the addition and improvement of physical spaces to the camp. It signifies the enduring commitment of the Armenian community to fostering cultural preservation, unity and a strong sense of identity among the younger generation.
As the camp embarks on this new chapter, there is a collective optimism about the potential it holds. The renovated Under The Trees and Cabin Circle spaces will undoubtedly become a cherished part of Camp Haiastan, where countless stories will unfold, friendships will blossom and memories will be etched in the hearts of all who pass through.
The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be remembered as a milestone in the camp’s journey, marking the beginning of an era where Armenian heritage continues to thrive under the watchful shade of ancient trees. It is a celebration of the past, the present and the future—a future where the camp’s legacy of preserving Armenian identity will continue to flourish for generations to come.
For a bird’s eye view of the camp, a one-minute video is available to view on the Camp Haiastan website under the “Campgrounds” tab.