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2016 Desert Gala

General Richard Wilmot

Lifetime Achievement Award

General Richard Wilmot is being honored for a lifetime of service.  His life has been dedicated to serving his country and to serving his community.  He is a successful international businessman, internationally known public speaker, consultant to governments and industry, and an author.  He is a retired US Army Brigadier General and ended his military career as the commandant of the US Army Intelligence Center and School.  He has also served his country as an employee of a US intelligence organization and was successful in engineering the covert procurement of twelve main battle tanks of the Soviet Army.  This was key to the early demise of the Iraqi ground forces during Desert Storm.  This operation is one of the few he is able to speak about publicly.  The true scope of his service to this country will likely never be known.  Richard turned his focus toward youth and adult leadership training in 1996 when he and his wife, Julia, founded Angel Light Academy.  He sees a void in leadership at the local, national, and international levels and believes that children and adults should be trained in leadership, character, problem solving, and team building.  As a consultant and public speaker, he ties in the leadership training to topics such as nation building, government policy and procedures, creating strategic alliances, counter-terrorism, international security, and crisis management.  He can hold captive audiences filled with experts and teach them the same leadership skills he teaches young children.  The General has received many honors including the Legion of Merit, Air Medal, Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Vietnamese Honor Medal, Department of the Army Staff Badge, Senior Parachute Badge, and Army Ranger Tab.  His energy, drive, experience, and commitment to making the world a better place have proven time and time again.  He is truly an exceptional leader and a great example of servant leadership in action.

Sandy Smith

Copper Mountain College Foundation

Sandy Smith has been active in serving the high desert community for many years.  She worked for many years as head of Reach Out Morongo Basin, a non-profit organization dedicated to informal caregiving for seniors and the disabled.  She is an active member of the Twentynine Palms Rotary Club and was selected for the Vocational Training Team and she spent a month in southern Brazil to teach local professors at the State University how to incorporate English into their courses. She also leads the Morongo Basin Relay for Life.  All of her years of service with non-profits gave her an intimate knowledge of the community, expertise in fundraising, marketing, and public relations.  She puts all this to use at the Copper Mountain College Foundation.  The Foundation serves the college’s 2700 students, staff, and faculty.  They provide scholarships, subsidize transportation for students, publish the campus’ literary magazine, support the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Associated Students of CMC conferences and trainings.   They also raised $500,000 to build the Christine Proudfoot Student Activity Center and Bud & Betty’s Place for Veteran’s on campus.  Sandy’s commitment to her community are reflected in her hard work and willingness to go above and beyond for CMC’s students.

Steinway Society of Riverside County

The Steinway Society’s mission is to promote excellence in piano performance and music education and to develop audiences for the musical arts.  They do this by partnering with schools and local organizations to bring music and music education to children who would otherwise not have the experience.  They are the only organization providing comprehensive music education programs and serve 40 Coachella Valley schools and more than 20,000 students each year.  Programs provide concerts in schools, music instruction, musical instrument instruction, introductions to the orchestra and symphony, and an outreach program, which provides pianos and piano lessons to those with financial need.  Their workshops and mentoring programs for middle and high school students encourage students to continue their musical education.  Ruth founded the Steinway Society in 2002.  This followed a musical career that included teaching music, performing in the San Francisco Bay area, writing commercials, and appearing on television for over 14 years.  She was an Emmy nominee in 1980 and has appeared on many children’s shows.  As a representative of Youth in Arts in Marin County, she wrote and produced a series of musical comedies for children, one of which was made into a television show an aired annually for four years.  Ruth’s commitment to children and to furthering musical education has gone above and beyond and she has been recognized by her community for her excellence.

Parkinson’s Resource Organization


Jo Rosen founded the Parkinson’s Resource Organization in 1990 to help those touched by Parkinson’s.  She’s worked hard for over 25 years so that no one is isolated because of Parkinson’s.  As the wife of a Person with Parkinson’s and also as a daughter, Jo has firsthand experience with the disease and its process and freely shares all she knows.  She gives her time and shows compassion to those seeking help with one-on-one coaching, advocacy, facilitating Parkinson’s support groups, managing professional referrals, and vetting a list of much needed resources.  Jo also provides community outreach, manages content on an interactive website, authors a monthly newsletter, and facilitates symposia and seminars.   Jo is highly respected for her expertise and her compassionate and committed approach to all clients, her perspective is invaluable to the Parkinson’s community. She serves from a place of integrity and comfort and feels her work must continue as long as there is a Person with Parkinson’s in need.  The Parkinson’s Resource Organization provides information and resources, and helps connect those affected by Parkinson’s to caregivers, treatments, support groups, and much more.  Jo and the organization go above and beyond to help those whose lives have been touched by Parkinson’s.

Event Management Productions

Richard DeSantis is the President and CEO of Event Management Productions. For the last 20+ years, he has partnered with virtually every major nonprofit charity in the valley and many on a national level.  His goal is to increase the effectiveness of the marketing and fundraising aspects of charitable organizations so they can better meet the needs of the community.  He is the Executive Producer of Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala show, Evening Under the Stars, Opera in the Park, Waring International Piano Competition Galas, Annenberg Foundation Events at Sunnylands Museum & Gardens, Prince Albert II of Monaco Awards, Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children events, Palm Springs Art Museum Galas, and many more. He has served on the Board of Directors of the La Quinta Arts Foundation and he has also served on the board of ACT for MS for over 16 years.  ACT for MS has a comprehensive program of tools that allow the disease to be managed, since there is no treatment and no cure.  Currently serving 87 active clients and their caregivers, ACT for MS has become the premier resource for people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the Coachella Valley. Richard’s dedication to improving the quality of life of others through expanding non-profit services and exposure makes him an angel on earth to the entire community.


As an executive in the title and escrow industry, Peggy Sue has been a partner with the real estate community for more than 28 years.  Serving the Southern California real estate and development industry, Peggy Sue is known for her strong understanding of commercial, luxury residential, industrial, hospitality, energy and tribal properties. A local Coachella Valley resident for more than 35 years, Peggy Sue Lane has deep roots within our Valley. A recognized community leader, Peggy Sue serves on a number of real estate and community Boards; including College of the Desert Foundation, Academic Angels of the College of the Desert, Board Member and 2014 Chair of the Desert Area Commercial Investment Exchange, and 2008 Graduate of Leadership Coachella Valley, four year board member and Chairwoman of the LCV Board in 2012. Additionally, Peggy Sue has been a committed volunteer to a variety of local organizations for many years, including Desert Valley Builders Association, California Desert Association of Realtors and 18 years with the Desert Town Hall Speakers Series.  Peggy Sue is often sought after as a speaker and presenter, offering her insights and understanding of the ever changing Coachella Valley and Southern California real estate landscape. Peggy Sue is deeply passionate about helping others reach their fullest potential and is an angel on earth to everyone who meets her.


Toni Callicott has served with many organizations in San Bernardino County and has given much of her time and energy to improving life and healthcare for its residents.  She has served as CEO of American Red Cross Inland Empire Chapter, Past President of the Arrowhead United Way, past chair of the St. Bernardine Medical Center Foundation, to name a few. She is currently, a board member of Totally Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, chair-elect of the St. Bernardine Medical Center Community Board of Directors, and Chair of the Board for California Housing Foundation.  CHF provides quality services and support programs designed to encourage and enable developmentally disabled persons achieve their highest possible level of personal independence, choice, and productivity.  CHF has been working to create permanent homes for developmentally disabled persons, provide financial grants for independent living, and find new ways to serve Regional Center Clients.  Toni and her team at CHF have the ability to find good properties, pull together the resources, and find a way to do quality renovations to make the homes livable and comfortable for the developmentally disabled.  Their core values honor every person and deal with integrity, honesty, professionalism, and compassion in all they do, even with a sense of fun. Toni works tirelessly to improve the quality of life for others in need and have shown to go above and beyond in service to the community and the people in it.

The First Tee of the Coachella Valley

The First Tee of the Coachella Valley strives to impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development through the game of golf.  In addition to learning the fundamentals of golf, the character education and life skills programs help prepare kids to be successful at school, at home, and in the community.  The First Tee Nine Core Values (add Trademark symbol), which include honesty, integrity, respect, and perseverance, provide the structure that helps kids accomplish goals, thrive socially, excel academically and athletically, and become productive members of society. Life skill instruction focuses on managing emotions, setting goals, resolving conflicts, and communication.  Dustin Smith is the Program Director and has worked hard to maintain program excellence.  His background in education and his dedication to improving lives make him a highly effective instructor, trainer, and coach.  He trains volunteers, writes and implements curriculum, develops and launches golf camps during school vacations, and oversees local operations.  His commitment to creating young leaders in the Coachella Valley has made him an angel on earth to many.


Dr. Prem Salhotra has devoted his life to medicine and service. He currently serves at Hi-Desert Medical Center, HDMC Family Clinic, Visiting Nurses Association, Sky Harbor Rehabilitation Center, as well as Morongo Medical Group. Dr. Salhotra has spent thirty wonderful years practicing medicine in the Desert communities. He graduated from medical school in Punjab, India and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in Pennsylvania. He believes that everyone deserves to receive quality medical care. From a young age, Dr. Salhotra took an interest in serving rural villages in India and it is from these humble roots that the desire to serve was born. Although he has received many awards and honors throughout the years, Dr. Salhotra maintains that his biggest reward is the smile on his patients’ faces and that to help someone in pain is one of the greatest things we can do in our lives. He stays by his patient’s side no matter how late at night. He is always there to guide them through their pain. Dr. Salhotra was voted the Best of the Best in the Morongo Valley for two consecutive years and is the current Chief of Medicine at the Hi Desert Medical Center. He also serves as the director for the Visiting Nurses Association. Dr. Salhotra’s devotion to service and desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others make him truly go above and beyond. Dr. Prem Salhotra exemplifies a true commitment to service.

Pegasus Therapeutic Riding – All Special Needs, All Ages

Robin Montgomery has given in service her whole life.  She has served her community in many capacities, currently for Pegasus Therapeutic Riding.  Pegasus provides no cost therapeutic riding for disabled children and adults.  For the physically impaired, they help develop beneficial muscles and learn hand-eye coordination.  The mentally disabled reap psychological and emotional benefits such as learning to concentrate, following directions, and the empowerment that comes from being able to ride and control a horse.  The horses can also provide emotional support for those who need help building trust and confidence.  Pegasus also works to adopt horses and find homes for those not able to be used for therapy.  Robin’s dedication to improving lives has been evident throughout her life as she’s served on boards and advisory committees for worthy organizations including Loving All Animals, Ranch Recovery Center, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, The American Cancer Society, CBS-Local 2, and Muses at the McCallum Theater.  She believes that time is the greatest gift you can give and she demonstrates that with her tireless volunteerism and her willingness to help local organizations.  Robin is an angel on earth to all of those she serves.

Erica Stone
Soldiers Organized Services

Erica Stone is the founder of Soldiers Organized Services, a nonprofit which provides free rides to Marines.  Since its inception in 2007, S.O.S. has provided rides for over 93,500 service members. Over 150 volunteer drivers provide free transportation from the Palm Springs and Ontario International Airports to the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms.  Erica began the organization after meeting a wounded Marine in the Palm Springs airport.  He was struggling with luggage and had missed the last bus to the base.  She offered him a ride and from there realized that hundreds of Marines deserved hassle-free transportation from airport to base.  These soldiers often are returning from hostile places or will soon be deployed to hostile places and the comfort of a friendly driver can help ease their stress and worry.  Volunteers, many of which are veterans, provide mentoring, advice, and pleasant company to service members. In 2015, S.O.S. Resale Boutique and Veteran’s Communication Center was opened in Palm Desert to provide resources to veterans. Erica goes above and beyond to help those that protect our freedom, giving them some peace of mind in their travels.

Kathy Greco & Donna Craig
Desert Healthcare District and Desert Healthcare Foundation

The Desert Healthcare District is a public agency that supports health-related community programs and services within the Coachella Valley.  The District has embraced the collective impact approach to address the Coachella Valley’s health and wellness needs, including food insecurity, mental health crisis, childhood obesity, health disparities, early treatment and rehabilitation of stroke, as well as prevention, early intervention, and management of diabetes.  The Desert Healthcare Foundation is a nonprofit that provides support for healthcare and wellness services and programs.  Kathy Greco is the CEO of the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation.  She has been devoted to improving healthcare and it is under her direction that the District earned the 2014 Healthcare District of the Year for its successful community partnership to improve access to healthcare by addressing the shortage of healthcare workers, improving healthcare delivery infrastructure, and increasing the number of individuals with affordable health insurance.  Kathy has receive leadership awards for her service to the District and to improving healthcare.  Donna Craig is the Chief Grants Officer at the District.  She oversees the grant-making program and provides recommendations for distribution of grant dollars.  She is dedicated to improving healthcare across the Coachella Valley.  These two leaders within the District are proving to be angels on earth to the entire healthcare district and beyond.