More than 100 people, including policemen, firemen, family, friends and the public teamed up at Civic Center Plaza on Saturday morning for a to honor the fifth anniversary of the death of Beverly Hills High School junior Vahagn Setian, and to raise money and awareness for the foundation created in his name.
In December 2006, 17-year-old Vahagn and two 15-year-old girls were riding in a Land Rover driven by 26-year-old actor Lane Garrison, who crashed the car into a tree, seriously injuring one of the girls and killing Vahagn. Garrison’s blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was twice the legal limit. He ultimately pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and served two years in prison.
“We simply want [teens] to hear about what one decision cost our son, and try and make them look at the potential consequences of their actions before they take them,” Vahagn’s father, Karen Setian, said. He and his wife Ida started the Vahagn Setian Charitable Foundation in their son’s memory. “We want kids to look to the proper role models and follow their leads to better decisions.”
The 5K event raised money so that the foundation can continue to spread its message of proper decision making. Through the use of a wide range of educational programs, events and scholarships, the foundation strives to show youths that their actions have consequences.
“When my son was killed, he and I were best friends, but I didn’t know his world. I didn’t know the world of the teens,” Setian said. “Our kids need to be taught that making good choices is OK even if it’s not the popular thing to do.”
Setian wanted to give special thanks to city police officers who have supported the foundation’s efforts. Members of the Beverly Hills Police Department’s Baker to Vegas relay started the day’s 5K run and acted as route guides.
“The police officers of Beverly Hills have been there for us since the crash and their support has continued every day since then,” Setian said. “I want kids to realize what great people our police officers are and look at how they handle life’s different paths.”
Members of the Beverly Hills Firemen’s Association were also on hand to support the charity and participants.
Jake Lefkowitz, a childhood friend and classmate of Vahagn's, said he ran for his friend’s memory.
“I miss 'V' every day,” Lefkowitz said. “You never get over such a loss, but time helps some.”
Setian said that when he returned home from the hospital after his son’s death, his neighborhood was filled with hundreds of people, mostly teenagers, who had heard of what had happened to Vahagn.
“It occurred to me that my son had touched so many people so positively because he was such a caring, warm and loving person. There is not a day that goes by where we do not hear from someone who wishes us well,” Setian said. “We lost our son, but gained a thousand new family members. Giving back to our community seemed like the best way to make something positive come from the loss of Vahagn.”