The Beverly Hills City Council has unanimously approved a request to honor Vahagn Setian, the 17-year-old Beverly Hills High School student killed in a drunk driving accident in 2006. The tribute will take the form of a landscape boulder and plaque next to a tree being planted at Roxbury Park in Setian’s honor. On the night of Dec. 2, 2006, Setian was a passenger in a car that crashed into a tree on South Beverly Drive. The driver, former “Prison Break” star Lane Garrison, was inebriated.
Setian’s family established the Vahagn Setian Charitable Foundation after he died. The Foundation works with community youth to support them with smart decision making. It also promotes anti-drunk driving initiatives. At its Nov. 16 meeting, the Council approved the Foundation’s request to make an annual donation to plant trees within the community, beginning with the inaugural event on Dec. 5 at Roxbury Park.
“It really is a question of making the right choices,” Councilmember John Mirisch said during the Nov. 16 hearing. “And that’s something that I think a lot of good has actually come from, as tragic as it is, I think this is something that is important for our city.”
Other councilmembers echoed similar statements, saying they were honored to be part of the program.
The Foundation donated $5,000 to the Beverly Hills Community Charitable Foundation to fund the inaugural tree dedication event. The 30-inch-wide and 16-inch-high proposed plaque will be affixed to a boulder placed next to an oak tree planted in the area behind the Roxbury Park basketball court.
“The goal is to make sure that we communicate with kids that their decisions are very important,” Karen Setian, Vahagn’s father, told the Courier. “On a day-to-day basis, being mindful about the choices that they make is crucial. Not only for their well-being, but others too. That is the most important message that I wanted really to communicate.”
Over the years, Beverly Hills High School has provided the elder Setian with opportunities to address students at assemblies.
Setian first opens his heart to establish a channel of trust. “I tell them, ‘This is what my pain looks like.’ And it works because it becomes very personal.”
The Vahagn Setian Charitable Foundation also holds an annual memorial run fundraiser on the first Sunday of December, bringing the community together to run and compete for prizes provided by generous sponsors. The tree planting each year will be in conjunction with the memorial run.
“The idea with the tree was always attractive to me,” Setian told the Courier. “The tree is like a sign of life. It’s something that passes to the next generation. It always had a tremendous meaning for my wife and I. Especially since it is the 15th anniversary since Vahagn passed, and the 15th anniversary since we started our foundation.”
The December date was chosen to fall as near to the date of the original tragedy in 2006. “The car was crashed on the 2nd, and he was taken to Cedars-Sinai, and he passed away on Dec. 3, in the morning,” Setian told the Courier.
The text on the plaque will read: “VAHAGN SETIAN (1989-2006)
Our Work is Strong With Your Support VAHAGNFOUNDATION.ORG”