Philanthropy is an opportunity, a choice, and an obligation to take action. In the Coachella Valley, it’s also a community, which during the pandemic has fixed its focus squarely on the health and empowerment of the people who live here.The 14th annual National Philanthropy Day in the Desert Virtual Awards recently offered an opportunity for the Desert Communities Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals to honor six people who propel the philanthropic community with their unwavering generosity, compassion, and fortitude.
“National Philanthropy Day in the Desert acknowledges the entire spectrum of services provided by the nonprofit community, and recognizes the profound impact that philanthropy has on the fabric of society,” says Judi Olivas, president of the association’s local chapter. “In this challenging time, we are more committed than ever to celebrating National Philanthropy Day and this year’s remarkable honorees.”
Selby Dunham (Outstanding Nonprofit Founder)
Dunham asserted vision, leadership, and service when she rallied friends, fellow Bighorn Golf Club members, and other breast cancer survivors, to establish Bighorn BAM (Behind A Miracle) in 2007. The nonprofit organization has since raised $8.7 million to support the purchase of diagnostic breast cancer equipment at Lucy Curci Cancer Center at Eisenhower Health, benefiting more than 100,000 patients annually. Bighorn BAM also provides funds to other important cancer organizations. Dunham, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago, turned her treatment and survival into a personal challenge to triumph, and she continues to give back.
Tim and Carol Rochford (Outstanding Philanthropists)
They have a lifetime commitment to organizations focused on improving the health and well-being of underserved children. The Rochford Foundation improves outcomes for children ages 6 to 12 who face scarce resources. The Rochfords have donated millions of dollars to local youth organizations and, most recently, funded pediatric life-saving detection equipment for the Loma Linda University Health Indio Clinic.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DONALD FINCH
Sue Townsley (Outstanding Fundraising Volunteer)
She is an example of “a busy person getting the most done.” After moving to the Coachella Valley in 2011, Townsley sought ways to serve in her new community. She joined the boards of numerous Cathedral City organizations, including the historical society and Boys & Girls Club, as well as the Cathedral City Public Arts Commission. She also created the local UCLA Retiree Association.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER PALLADINO
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation, Corporation, or Civic Service Organization)
The Tribe exemplifies the definition of outstanding philanthropy. For more than 20 years, the tribe has funded more than 100 nonprofit organizations and presented educational programs about the region’s indigenous people. Unwavering in its support of local fire and police departments, the tribe donated personal protective equipment and supplies to local first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Betty Callies is the tribe’s executive director of administration.
ILLUSTRATION BY JOEY JARECKI / AGUA CALIENTE BAND OF CAHUILLA INDIANS
Leo Milmet (Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy)
Milmet had a long history of charitable giving and volunteer leadership by the time he turned 17 years old. He is the youngest founder of McCallum Theatre and one of the longest-serving board members of Well In The Desert, for which he started as a student representative at age 9. From the age of 3, he would ask people to make gifts to charitable organizations rather than give him a gift. Milmet’s attributes his passion for helping others to his mother, who taught him to always follow his heart.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAMELA MCCORMICK
Liz Chambers (Outstanding Fundraising Professional)
Known for her leadership in planned giving and major gifts, Chambers has registered more than 20 years of service and raised tens of millions of dollars for some of the largest nonprofits in the region. She was the first planned giving director for the Palm Springs Art Museum, and then became assistant director of development for major gifts at McCallum Theatre. In 2018, Chambers joined the College of the Desert Foundation as a planned giving consultant.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DIMITRI HALKIDIS
AFP board member Kristin Bloomer chairs this year’s National Philanthropy Day awards, and Patti and Jack Grundhofer are the presenting sponsors and honorary chairs. “We are thrilled to honor and celebrate these outstanding philanthropists for their generosity,” says Patti Grundhofer. “Giving is a transformational experience that is different for everyone, but all having a definite impact.”