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2017 Desert Gala

Julia Wilmot

Lifetime Achievement Award

Julia Wilmot is the Founder and President of Angel Light Academy.  She is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 40 years of service in various fields. Julia has always been deeply committed to community service and to making the world a better place. She began her service early in 4H and began solving problems, thinking creatively, and improving her community.  Julia served with the YMCA and the YWCA and originated the Latch-Key Program in Arizona.  She was a representative for statewide economic development; effectively directed Mayoral, City Council, and Representative races; and was a member in the first class of Valley Leadership, Inc. where she founded an alumni association.  Julia also served on the crime commission where she initiated Neighborhood Watch programs.  Julia maintained this high level of community involvement while running her professional interior design firm, a development company, and an investment firm, and while raising her 2 sons as a single mother.  She left the business world and turned to service full-time when she became the Executive Director of Project Prevention.  This non-profit teamed with Phoenix Children’s Hospital and local schools to educate and prevent abuse in over 600,000 children.  Julia was named one of the YWCA’s Women of the Year for her years of service in leadership, healthcare social services, government, and community.  In 1995, she and husband General Richard Wilmot founded Angel Light Academy, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to teaching leadership, communication, and problem solving to youth and adults.  Julia is an amazing example of leadership.

David Brinkman, Desert AIDS Project

David Brinkman has been the CEO and President of Desert AIDS Project for over 10 years and has helped lead the organization through expansion that has increased the number of volunteers and clients, reaching more people with more services than ever before.   Under his leadership, Desert AIDS Project established a dental clinic, a permanent supportive housing complex, a community center, a department of Community Health, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic, and a vocational program as well as achieved Federally Qualified Health Center status.  David has served the not-for-profit community for over 23 years. He is a Specialist in Planned Giving, was the 2011 recipient of the HIV Provider Network HERO Award, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Health Assessment Resource Center (HARC) Board of Directors and the Policy Research Advisory Committee of the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center at UCLA.  David also serves as a voice for community-based organizations and the local HIV/AIDS community.  He is currently appointed to the City of Palm Springs’ Community Development Block Grant Citizen’s Advisory Committee and has previously served on the Editorial Board of The Desert Sun. David’s untiring work and incredible leadership has benefitted thousands and improved life for many Valley residents.

Maureen Forman, Jewish Family Service of the Desert

Maureen Forman is the Executive Director of Jewish Family Service of the Desert and has focused her social work background on meeting the needs of the underserved by improving service delivery systems and collaborating with other agencies to deliver compassionate care to the entire Coachella Valley. She has served in multiple capacities in both inpatient and outpatient social service settings and has developed a program for uninsured patients to receive their medication on discharge to prevent re-hospitalization. She is also a social work field instructor for Cal State San Bernardino, Loma Linda, Brandman University, and USC. Maureen has also served on a number of planning committees including Martha’s Village Clinic, Volunteers In Medicine, Mental Health Stakeholders, multiple senior- needs panels and presentations, and most recently has worked with the Clinton Health Matters Initiative to develop a Collaborative of Agencies working with low income seniors. She is also the current vice chair of Coachella Valley Economic Partnership Workforce Excellence Mental Health Group, which is working to develop a career pathway for local high school and college students to enter the mental health job market here in the valley. Maureen has become an invaluable help to many in the Coachella Valley who would otherwise not receive the full and compassionate care they need. 

Andrea Carter

Andrea Carter is a veteran in the PR business and shares her expertise through service to various organizations.  Andrea is the pro bono Public Relations Director and a member of the Board for the Patrick Warburton Celebrity Golf Tournament benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and recently wrapped up her 3-year term as president of the Sheltering Sisters Auxiliary Fundraising Board for Shelter From The Storm – the regional shelter for victims of domestic violence. She spent 5 years on the Board for DesertArc, and served on the Board for Women Leaders Forum. She is also an active member of the Advisory Board for the Girlfriend Factor. Andrea was named one of the “40 Under 40” rising young professionals in the region by Palm Springs Life magazine in 2010, and was also honored as one of the “Top 12 Most Interesting & Influential Women of the Coachella Valley” by CV Weekly magazine in 2016.  Andrea is a graduate in the 2007 class of Leadership Coachella Valley.  Andrea is a natural leader who is dedicated to service. 

Congressman Paul Cook

As a retired Marine Colonel with 26 years of service, one of Congressman Cook’s top priorities in Congress is ensuring veterans receive the benefits and support they earned while honorably serving their country. Congressman Cook was instrumental in implementing the Choice Act, legislation allowing some of our most vulnerable veterans to access critical medical care outside of the Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare system. He also fought to ensure continuous funding to the VA, ensuring veterans’ health and benefits would never be at risk in the case of a government shutdown. Congressman Cook has sponsored legislation that will boost veteran employment and preserve the dignity of the medals awarded to veterans for the sacrifices they’ve made protecting their country. His HR 3286, the HIRE Vets Act of 2016, is a bipartisan bill that will promote private sector recruiting, hiring, and retaining of men and women who served honorably in the U.S. military by creating an awards program recognizing the meaningful, verifiable efforts undertaken by employers to hire and retain veterans.  Congressman Cook also introduced HR 6234, the Private Corrado Piccoli Purple Heart Preservation Act, a bill that will protect the Purple Heart from falling into the hands of profiteers who buy and sell these medals as mere war memorabilia. This important legislation honors and preserves our national symbol of sacrifice and has earned the endorsement of dozens of Veteran’s Service Organizations.

Suz Hunt

Suz Hunt was a successful business woman for over 30 years in the insurance industry and has used her expertise to assist non-profit organizations since moving to the Coachella Valley over 10 years ago.  Always focused on service and philanthropy, Suz has volunteered countless hours with numerous organizations throughout the Coachella Valley. Since 2009, Suz has been a member of various committees for the Waring International Piano Competition. The Waring International Piano Competition gives children and young adults the opportunity to jumpstart their musical careers and has an outreach program to bring classical music to schools.  Additionally, Suz has made a huge impact by serving on the Boards for the College of the Desert Foundation and ACT for MS.  Her work with the COD Foundation has helped thousands of students, most of which are the first in their families to attend college.  The students she helps are able to get financial assistance, get the education they need, and then work in the Coachella Valley.  ACT For MS helps valley residents with multiple sclerosis live longer, better quality lives.  They offer many services and often provide financial assistance for families in need. They currently serve over 100 clients.  Suz has always been dedicated to improving lives here in the Coachella Valley and she is an inspiration to all who know her.

Roberta Klein, Read With Me Program

Roberta Klein is the founder and president of the Read With Me program.  This program brings over 700 volunteers into East Valley schools to help over 3,400 students with reading and English Language skills.  Roberta and a group from Sacred Heart Church met with community leaders and the superintendent of the Coachella Valley Unified School District about how they could help students in the East Valley.  The request was for English-speaking role models to work with students on reading and language skills.  For more than 12 years, volunteers have been riding buses, coordinated by Roberta, to the schools and spending time working with students who need extra assistance with reading, writing, and speaking in English.  They also provide new books for students, and help fund supplies, field trips, and special projects.  The students love the extra attention and teachers love the extra help provided by the volunteers.  Read With Me has received the Golden Bell award from the California School Board Association for its efforts in Coachella Valley Unified School District. Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz presented each participating school and volunteer group with a Congressional Certificate of Recognition in 2016.  Roberta is truly making a difference in the lives of students, teachers, and volunteers with this amazing program.

Cameron Moulton, Christopher's Clubhouse

Cameron Moulton is the Director of Development and Training at Christopher’s Clubhouse and has worked with thousands of children, women, and elderly teaching them important skills to stay safe.  Cameron began this work early on when, at age 13, he become the youngest instructor in the nationally renowned program RADKIDS.  His dedication has not wavered and he has since become a certified instructor for many RAD (Resisting Aggression Defensively/Rape Aggression Defense) programs assisting men, women, and children.  He also collaborates with United Cerebral Palsy of the Inland Empire to teach disabled students defense.  He is a lead instructor for all programs offered at Christopher’s Clubhouse and in the Always Be Safe Assembly program, which teaches thousands of children each year how to be safe.  Cameron has developed new programs and trains all instructors. He is truly an angel on earth to the thousands who have learned to defend themselves, be safe in any situation, and have the confidence to feel secure. 

Selby Dunham, Bighorn Behind A Miracle

Selby Dunham is the founder of Bighorn BAM, a non-profit organization that has raised millions of dollars to elevate cancer care for the entire valley by supporting local cancer patients.  Bighorn BAM (Behind a Miracle) has been raising money and providing support for cancer patients for more than 10 years.  They have raised millions for cancer patient support services, diagnostic technology, and educational scholarships.  They have helped to significantly advance healthcare through Eisenhower Medical Center, providing funding for the latest technology.  They have also provided direct assistance to patients in the form of transportation, assistance with living expenses, assistance with medical costs, and education.  Their support has helped thousands get better faster.  Founder Selby is a breast cancer survivor and has put her seemingly endless energy into helping to make sure that more people get the cancer screening and care they need.  Her enthusiasm and passion have ensured that others have the best resources available locally.  Her genuine and heartfelt commitment are the driving force behind this amazing organization.

Katie Slimko-Stice, Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce

Katie Slimko-Stice has been a part of the non-profit sector in the Coachella Valley for 20 years.  She is currently with the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce, where she combines her civic mindedness with her exemplary leadership to help businesses and professionals become more successful.   She began her service by volunteering for the YMCA of the Desert.  She became a site director and, later, turned her experience and her love for children into a career at the Children’s Discovery Museum.  While there, she built educational programs, classes, camps, and workshops for children and families.   Katie continues to improve the Coachella Valley and now invests her time and energy into supporting business, helping small business owners realize their dreams.  She is a Leadership Coachella Valley graduate and has been so instrumental in improving her community that she was named a part of Palm Springs Life’s “40 Under 40”.  Katie is also involved in other non-profit work including the Board of Regents for the US Chamber’s Institute Program, Sheltering Sister for Shelter from the Storm, and Unforgettables Foundation Board Member.  Katie has a deep understanding of the importance of community and helping others, so she dedicates her time to community needs and strives each day to make the Coachella Valley a better place for all of the residents. 

Sheriff Stan Sniff

Sheriff Stan Sniff has given over 40 years of distinguished service in law-enforcement and has been involved in service and leadership roles throughout Riverside County. He oversees countywide patrol operations, jail operations, court security and coroner investigations. A native of the Coachella Valley, he grew up in the Indio area and joined the Coachella Police Department in 1975 after graduation from the San Bernardino Sheriff ’s Academy. He transferred to the Riverside County Sheriff ’s Department in 1979, initially assigned to the Indio Station, serving across the Coachella Valley. His initial expertise was in traffic enforcement and accident investigation and he was instrumental in creating the department’s very first specialized traffic safety programs. He has held subsequent assignments in uniformed patrol operations in Riverside, the San Gorgonio Pass area, and Southwest Riverside County. As a Captain he held command assignments of the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, the Banning Sheriff ’s Station and the Ben Clark Training Center. As a Chief Deputy he held assignments over Training and Personnel, East and West county patrol operations. A retired colonel in the Army Reserve, he served 30 years in a variety of military staff and command assignments in infantry, armor and cavalry units.  The Sheriff has gone above and beyond during his career giving service to country and community.

Suzanne Armstrong

Suzanne Armstrong is the founder of A & A Home Care Services, a Registry and Home Care Organization (HCO) that provides warm, personalized care to both home-bound and residential patients. A pioneer in extending warm, personalized care to both home-bound and residential patients, Suzanne has set the benchmark for quality and care in all branches of her business. In 2005, Suzanne opened Casa de Harkness, a 6-bed Residential Care Facility for the Elderly, specializing in dementia and hospice care that has earned a reputation for providing unique services. Suzanne has contributed to a number of charitable organizations throughout the years and has served on a number of Boards of Directors, including Desert Samaritans for Seniors, Soroptimist International of Palm Springs and The House of Hope. She also owned Armstrong & Associates, a comprehensive consulting firm for medical practices, was the co-founder and Executive Director of the Medical Manager’s Association for 10 years, and in 2016, she founded CareKids Club, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to educate the youth on the many needs of their community through direct involvement and hands-on projects. CareKids bridges with the Elderly, through reading, interactive games, visits, etc. CareKids helps kids to develop positive values, gain practical life skills, build self-esteem and character through service projects.