Desert Gala Honorees

To find out more on each honoree, click on their photo to read their bio.

Kim Waltrip - 2023

Kim Waltrip - 2023

Congressman Ken Calvert - 2023

Congressman Ken Calvert - 2023

Mary Lou Green - 2023

Mary Lou Green - 2023

Mario Del Guidice - 2023

Mario Del Guidice - 2023

Ted Weill - 2023

Ted Weill - 2023

Heather Vaikona, Lift to Rise - 2023

Heather Vaikona, Lift to Rise - 2023

Roxanne Bauer - 2023

Roxanne Bauer - 2023

David Catanzarite & Karen Lin, Green Room Theatre Company - 2023

David Catanzarite & Karen Lin, Green Room Theatre Company - 2023

Julie Hirsh, Jewish Family Service of the Desert - 2023

Julie Hirsh, Jewish Family Service of the Desert - 2023

Mark Tadros - 2023

Mark Tadros - 2023

  • Kim Waltrip - 2023
  • Congressman Ken Calvert - 2023
  • Mary Lou Green - 2023
  • Mario Del Guidice - 2023
  • Ted Weill - 2023
  • Heather Vaikona, Lift to Rise - 2023
  • Roxanne Bauer - 2023
  • David Catanzarite & Karen Lin, Green Room Theatre Company - 2023
  • Julie Hirsh, Jewish Family Service of the Desert - 2023
  • Mark Tadros - 2023
  • Kim Waltrip - 2023

    Kim Waltrip is a Film Producer and Director. Kim was President of Palm Springs Women in Film and Television, and she is on the advisory board of the Washington Film Foundation, College of the Desert's Film School, a current member of Greenlight Women, the producer of Palm Springs Women in Film's Speaker Series, on the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce's nominating board for the Walk of Stars. She has produced hundreds of events throughout the Coachella Valley, including golf tournaments, concerts, galas and fundraisers. She has served as a juror for the Palm Springs International Short Fest, the California Independent Film Festival, the Red Rock Film Festival, the International Youth Silent Film Festival and is co-founder of the Feartastic Film Festival and has moderated panels at Palm Springs Comic Con. In 1998 after the death of her friend Sonny Bono, Kim moved to Palm Springs where she began work as the District Director for Congresswoman Mary Bono. She has been awarded the "Congressional Recognition for Service to the Community," the "Desert Visionary Award" by the Women's Leaders Forum, the "Woman of Distinction" Award by the California State Assembly, District 42, the "Entrepreneur of the Year" award by Palm Springs Life Magazine, received the "Most Valuable Patron" award by the Garden State Film Festival, and many more. She has served on the Board of the Olive Crest Homes for Abused and Neglected Children's Foundation, who honored her with the "Angel of the Year Award." She is a former Board Member of Palm Springs Women in Film and Television and was honored with the "Desert Diva Award" at the Broken Glass Awards in 2012. Kim has served on the advisory board of CBS Local 2, the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, was a board member of the Tour de Palm Springs, Indian Wells Rotary. She was awarded the "Paul Harris Fellow" from Rotary International and she has organized numerous charitable events, tournaments and galas, including the Concert for Katrina and the Hurricane Sandy Relief Benefit for the Red Cross. She was the Co-Chair for the Shelter From the Storm Gala 2014 and the chair of the American Cancer Society's Desert Spirit Gala for 2016.
  • Congressman Ken Calvert - 2023

    Congressman Ken Calvert, a lifelong resident of Riverside County and 17-year small business owner in the restaurant and real estate industries, represents the 41st Congressional District of southern California. Throughout his life, Ken has been actively involved and served in leadership roles with several local community volunteer organizations, including the Corona Chamber of Commerce, the Corona Rotary, and the Corona-Norco Family YMCA. Rep. Calvert was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and is one of the most senior members serving in the legislative body. Rep. Calvert is the Dean of the California Republican Delegation. Since he was first elected to Congress, Rep. Calvert has worked hand-in-hand with local stakeholders to bring federal resources to critical projects in Riverside. Rep. Calvert has authored a number of bills that became law including legislation that protects against identity theft by prohibiting the appearance of Social Security account numbers on or through unopened mailings of checks issued by the Treasury Department, provides additional educational dollars to states through a simplified collection process of oil and gas royalties, increasing the penalties for desecrating our national cemeteries, establishing the Medal of Honor Memorial at the Riverside National Cemetery as a "national" memorial, and reduces or eliminates the use of animals to test product and chemical safety by establishing alternative test methods throughout a coalition of federal agencies; and established the Distinguished Flying Cross Memorial as a National Memorial. Rep. Calvert's legislative work has received top ratings from the Americans for Tax Reform, Christian Coalition, League of Private Property Voters, National Federation of Independent Businesses, 60 Plus Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Survival Committee and Citizens for a Sound Economy.
  • Mary Lou Green - 2023

    Mary Lou Green was born and raised in Albuquerque, NM. She taught fifth and sixth grade students in Littleton, CO and then helped start the L.E.A.P. program for academically gifted elementary students at the end of her 18-year career there. In addition to her teaching, Mary Lou worked with her husband Dennis to build their business, designing greeting cards and inventing consumer products. Together they invented over 50 consumer products and earned 17 patents. The Greens sold their company in 2006 and retired in La Quinta, CA. However, Mary Lou’s parents became so ill that they needed 24/7 care so retirement plans changed to full-time caregiving for them. Since retiring, Dennis and Mary Lou have written three books, invented two new consumer products called Throne Daddy and On Topper, and started BigIdeaSchool.com to provide online courses to inventors and entrepreneurs. Driven by her experience in caring for her parents, Mary Lou pursued training in understanding Alzheimer’s and dementia, and she is now a certified NCCDP Dementia Practitioner as well as an ARPF Brain Longevity Specialist. Five years ago, Mary Lou joined the Dementia Help Center in Indian Wells as an independent Family Care Consultant. She does individual and group caregiver coaching, strategic planning and care management, and co-leads THRIVE caregiver support groups every Wednesday with DHC Founder Kae Hammond. To promote brain longevity, Mary Lou founded Dementia Bridge, a local company designed to promote a healthy lifestyle that can delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Mary Lou volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association of Coachella Valley in three capacities: as the Mission Chair for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, as the Shadow Hills Caregiver Support Group leader, and as a Community Educator. She chairs the Brain Longevity Core Team with the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation in Scottsdale, AZ. Mary Lou also serves as the Senior Outreach Advisor for the Old Town Art Studio in La Quinta, connecting seniors to art experiences and promoting programs designed around their needs. She received the 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award from the City of La Quinta Chamber of Commerce.
  • Mario Del Guidice - 2023

    Starting out as a young boy in Brooklyn and Queens New York Mario had a thirst for work and business. He always wanted to be independent and not to burden his family. At age 12, he had a hot dog & ice cream cart in the streets of New York, employing and profit-sharing with his cousins. His first experience with autism was in the sixth grade when he was given detention to work with the special autism unit. After a few days, he found much respect and admiration for how focused the kids were on whatever they were doing and he began volunteering with them. He came to California in 1969 and purchased a home in Palm Springs California with his children who were then 8, 9, and 10 years of age. In 1972, he opened his first restaurant in Yucca Valley and purchased a small ranch where the children were able to grow up in open space in a small community and work in the family business. In the early 1980s, Mario was fortunate to become a friend to Desert Arc. On weekdays, they would have training sessions at his restaurant Pietro‘s Italian restaurant in all culinary experiences. He was proud that the clients that did come to his training sessions went on to work at country clubs and the La Quinta hotel. In his life, he had three mentors who he respected. His father Peter who was known in the community as a man’s man and taught him to live by three words: respect, strength, and perseverance. His uncle Gennaro was a great chef each time he would amaze him with another great dish. Lastly, his uncle Leonardo, a businessman, gave him business incentive and drive. He was fortunate to have these three mentors in his life who always taught him if God is good to you in both health and success you should give back and if you don’t shame on you. His achievements and volunteer experience includes: 6 great family restaurants and 50 years in the valley, Cancer Society Relay For Life, Make-A-Wish foundation, American Red Cross, Fundraisers for all high schools in the valley, Business person of the year in 2014, Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, Desert Arc Champion of the Year in 2018. In addition, Mario’s Community Monday served over 26,450 meals to first responders, hospitals, church groups, CV Rescue Mission, Street Life Project, and people in need in the valley, and donated 100,000 surgical gloves to all hospitals.
  • Ted Weill - 2023

    Ted Weill has been a desert resident for 22 years and was appointed to the City Council on December 20, 2012 to present. Ted is a Navy veteran, having served aboard the U.S.S. Randolph, CVA 15, assigned to the Sixth Fleet and deployed to the Persian Gulf. After completing his service, he moved to California in an executive training program with ABC Television. His passion was real estate where he formed Weill Financial Corporation. His company was involved in the development of master planned communities in California and Nevada and recreational vehicle parks. He was Chairman of the Planning Commission where he served for six years and Co-Chairman of the Redevelopment Successor Agency Oversight Board. As a member of the City Council, he represents the City on the Transportation Committee to the Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG), Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, and the Cove Communities Services Commission which includes the Joslyn Senior Center. Ted is a member of the Special Assistance Fund (SAF) Subcommittee which directs the City in regard to charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations. He has recently introduced changes in policy to provide for the distribution of funds to a greater number of deserving organizations. Other activities include being a representative to the McCallum Theatre, Coachella Valley Animal Campus, Public Safety Committee and alternate delegate to the Sunline Transit Agency Board. His strong real estate background provides to the City Council his expertise on the Affordable Housing Design Subcommittee. He is active in the planned development of Section 19, 269 acres that will be the future economic engine of the City. The area is planned for 3 million square feet of mixed use residential, commercial, retail and entertainment. Ted was on the Board of Directors of the Hereditary Disease Foundation and his family was involved in the formation of United Cerebral Palsy. He has been a strong supporter of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Other charitable interests include the RM Public Library Foundation, Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, Palm Springs Art Museum, Tolerance Education Center, Desert Aids, American Cancer Society and Braille Institute.
  • Heather Vaikona, Lift to Rise - 2023

    Heather Vaikona serves as President and CEO at Lift to Rise, a non-profit collective impact organization that brings together community and institutional leaders to collaboratively solve the underlying causes of poverty and inequality. Lift to Rise brings together community advocates and leaders in the public and private sectors to radically increase housing stability and economic mobility for everyone who calls the Coachella Valley home. Lift to Rise convenes the Housing Collaborative Action Network (CAN), a network of over 60 cross-sector partners organized around radically increasing the supply of affordable housing in the Coachella Valley. Lift to Rise's bold change agenda is anchored by significant institutional and grassroots partnerships including USC’s Price Center for Social Innovation, Riverside County, and dozens of local community organizations. Working with the Housing CAN, Heather has led Lift to Rise in launching We Lift: the Coachella Valley's Housing Catalyst Fund as well as implementing the United Lift emergency rental assistance program, which has distributed over $300 million to more than 35,000 low-income renter households financially impacted by the pandemic. We Lift is the result of more than 70 community partners and their multi-year effort to change the way we develop affordable housing. It’s a groundbreaking solution that pools resources to attract additional capital, allowing local developers to get their community-focused projects built—creating more places that people can call home. This fund is integral to reaching our goal of building 10,000 affordable homes by 2028. A Coachella Valley resident and fourth-generation Californian, Heather has worked both domestically and abroad focused on achieving social and economic justice through community development initiatives.
  • Roxanne Bauer - 2023

    Roxanne and her mother Marilyn are partners in Real Estate and they also share the heart of contributing to those in need. She has come from humble beginnings and recognizes the needs of those in vulnerable situations. Roxanne has lived in the Coachella Valley for over thirty years. During this time, Roxanne has become a quiet leader in the community and supports various causes and organizations. She has been supportive to the needs of Ronald McDonald House and helping to raise funds to support a local soccer team going to the State Championships. She recognizes the importance of empowering women and supporting them in developing self-confidence and self-defense. Her volunteer time to develop a bond of trust is the first step followed by providing a safe haven towards training in the use of firearms. She has partnered with Nothing Bundt Cakes to help feed those less fortunate. Various leaders throughout the community know they can call her to assist when they need help in supporting local causes through time, energy, or fundraising. Roxanne is an Angel on Earth to all who know her and the Coachella Valley shines brighter with her responding to the call from those in need.
  • David Catanzarite & Karen Lin, Green Room Theatre Company - 2023

    David Catanzarite is a veteran stage director, activist, and theatre educator. He has directed more than 150 productions in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Baltimore and the Coachella Valley. Karen Lin started as a teacher in a variety of grades for ten years in Los Angeles. In 1999, Karen taught theatre, dance, music, and visual art as part of the pioneer standards-based Los Angeles Arts Prototype program. This is where she met and later married David Catanzarite who was the Arts Advisor for over 80 schools. Then in 2010 David and his wife Karen Lin founded Green Room Theatre Company at the CSU San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus. For 13 years their conservatory program has offered training for children and teens, regardless of ability to pay. With the support of private donors and foundations Green Room has awarded more than $96,000 in scholarships and paid internships since 2010. It has touched the lives of hundreds of young artists, many of whom got their first paying theatre jobs growing up within the company. Now in their fourteenth successful season, David and Karen, are taking on a thrilling new challenge with Green Room Theatre: to build a professional theatre for neighborhoods in East Coachella Valley. In 2022, Karen and David set up a partnership with Desert Sands Unified School District for Green Room to come in and teach ballet folklorico in the schools. In February 2023 the City of Coachella bolstered their initiative by giving the company an office at City Hall. With support from the California Arts Council, Green Room has already launched a burgeoning ballet folklorico program at elementary schools in Indio and a theatre and literacy program at libraries, middle schools and high schools in Mecca, Indio, and La Quinta. Together, David and Karen continue dancing, doing theatre, and growing Green Room in a way that will embrace the needs of Coachella and the East Valley
  • Julie Hirsh, Jewish Family Service of the Desert - 2023

    Julie Hirsh, Director of Community Outreach, has been a member of the Jewish Family Service of the Desert (JFS) team for the past 5+ years serving in a variety of roles including community programs and case management. Julie has resided in the desert for the past 13 years after moving from Northern California with her husband to be closer to her adult child who was in college in the Los Angeles area at the time. Julie feels that her calling has always been in the social service realm but after college, where she majored in Community Studies at UC Santa Cruz, Julie traveled a new path after falling in love with the 80’s aerobic craze. Julie spent many years as a fitness professional, sometimes being a full-time career and others a part time opportunity while working in other roles. Julie’s fitness background led her to an amazing career working in an outpatient physical therapy clinic until leaving Northern California and landing in the desert. Julie is involved with various support programs at JFS. JFS is a non-sectarian, nonprofit, social service agency serving the needs of Coachella Valley residents in the areas of Mental Health Counseling, Case Management and Community Programs since 1982. JFS’s mission is to provide for the social service needs of the Jewish and general community throughout the greater Coachella Valley with a commitment to promote the well-being of people of all ages, incomes, and lifestyles. This includes various support programs such as, the Senior Collaborative to meet emergency needs for seniors in crisis, Let’s Do Lunch to encourage socialization through regularly schedule activities, Senior Services to provided weekly phone calls to isolated seniors to check on their needs, and case management providing emergency financial assistance to prevent homelessness. JFS also works with local and county organizations to advocate for the rights of seniors in the Valley.
  • Mark Tadros - 2023

    Mark Tadros grew up tagging along with his father to date ranches, including his own, all around the east end of the Coachella Valley. Although Mark did not join his father in business until 2008, he developed a skill set and knowledge base as a trained chef that has proven to be valuable in the date business. Mark is currently part owner and president of Aziz Farms, the company his father started, and has grown the business tremendously. Aziz Farms now has multiple operating branches that include growing, harvesting, packing and selling dates and other produce items; utilization of the farm as a private event space; and hosting school field trips for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition to his work for Aziz Farms, Mark also co-owns a consumer-direct produce delivery company called CV Harvest Box. The company was born during the COVID-19 pandemic when the date industry was severely impacted, as most industries were, and Mark was able to quickly pivot his focus from the wholesale market of dates to procuring a variety of produce and food items from local farmers and artisans who were also struggling due to the pandemic. He also serves as a board member of the California Date Commission and is the Chair of the Commission’s Marketing Committee. Recognized in multiple publications and media platforms, Mark is a known advocate for California grown produce and sustainable farming practices.
  • Kim Waltrip - 2023
  • Congressman Ken Calvert - 2023
  • Mary Lou Green - 2023
  • Mario Del Guidice - 2023
  • Ted Weill - 2023
  • Heather Vaikona, Lift to Rise - 2023
  • Roxanne Bauer - 2023
  • David Catanzarite & Karen Lin, Green Room Theatre Company - 2023
  • Julie Hirsh, Jewish Family Service of the Desert - 2023
  • Mark Tadros - 2023