The 24th annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards gala was astonishing on half-a-dozen different levels, beginning with the cocktail reception which included:

  • The glamour of a red-carpet, international fashion show
  • Fashion commentary by Palm Springs Life’s Susan Stein, who asked at least 700 times, “What are you wearing tonight?”
  • Staggering generosity by local philanthropists.
  • Creative touches in every square inch of the PS Convention Center.
  • Over 1,500 guests

But, according to long-time show producer Richard DeSantis, the idea for this utterly unique event happened like this:  “I was at a Hollywood Bowl concert looking at the stage, and it hit me like a bolt of lightening…this would be a great backdrop for the Steve Chase!” he said.

Thus, the nearly 1,500 guests at this event were welcomed by a dramatic, beautifully-designed stage backdrop showcasing the Hollywood Bowl in all its glory.

D.A.P. Board Chair Steve Kaufer introduced the Gala Co-Chairs, former US Senator Barbara Boxer, Patrick Jordan, and  Lauri Kibby,   But even before that, the co-chairs had introduced the evening’s host — television fashion expert Carson Kressley. Kressley stepped in to replace Ross Matthews who is currently starring in CBS’s Celebrity Big Brother.  Kressley’s comic stand-up flair pulled no punches, including current politics, fashion, and gay life in Palm Springs.

Senator Barbara Boxer presented The 100 Women Award to Dr. Shubha Kerkar.  Dr. Kerkar, a Board Certified Infectious Disease specialist, has been making lives of D.A.P. clients better for 25 years.  She joined Desert Regional Medical Center in the early 90’s.  In 1993, she became a part-time infectious disease consultant at D.A.P. in the first small clinic in Palm Springs. Her skilled management and research allow clients to lead healthy and productive lives with modern medicine advancements.

Producing sponsor Harold Matzner introduced local restaurateur Tony Marchese who was presented with the Partners for Life Award for his community service – raising funds annually by participating in Desert AIDS Walk, Dancing With the Desert Stars, and Dining Out For Life. Marchese’s restaurant, Trio, has for many years been one of the top three revenue producers for D.A.P.

Matzner said, “Palm Springs has the top three AIDS/HIV fundraising restaurants in North America out of the 52 participating cities. These are Trio, Lulu California Bistro, and Spencer’s.  In 2017, more than 70 local restaurants took part in this charitable endeavor raising more than $230,000 for client services at D.A.P.  Palm Springs ranked third in overall fundraising among participating organizations in the 52 cities.”

The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, named after the historic, philanthropic, interior designer, are given to individuals of great achievement, especially the medical field.

D.A.P. CEO David Brinkman was welcomed with rousing applause both before and after he observed that, “Since 1984 a group of volunteers in the face of the AIDS crisis created the not-for-profit resource for those living with, affected by, or at-risk for HIV or AIDS.  Today, D.A.P. is a Federally Qualified Health Center, improving the overall health of our entire community, especially the disfranchised —  all under one roof.”

Currently, more than 4,500 clients are receiving care, and each month 30-40 new patients arrive seeking service. More than 400 volunteers contribute over 60,000 hours of service annually.

MAJOR DONORS

The PRODUCING SPONSORS ($50,000) were Harold Matzner and Walgreens.  MAJOR SPONSORS ($25,000) included Desert Regional Medical Center, The Desert Sun, Eisenhower Medical Center, Grace Helen Spearman Foundation, KMIR-TV, and Reaction Marketing.  The STAR SPONSORS ($15,000) were Elgat Aster and Paul Swerdlove, and Renova Solar.

SUPPORTING SPONSORS ($10,000) included AFR Furniture Rentals, Steven Anders, Blackbook, Annette Bloch, Brush Palm Springs, Chill Bar, Desert Oasis Healthcare, El Paseo Jewelers, Friends of John Rock, Hydro Studios, Itex of the Desert Empire, Kasier Permanente, Barbara and Jerry Keller, Lauri Kibby, Dorothy and Melvyn Lefkowitz, Macy’s Foundation,Renaissance Hotel Palm Springs, Savoury’s, Gregory E. Seller, University of California Riverside, School of Medicine, Watkin’s Construction, and Wells Fargo.

The BENEFACTOR SPONSORS ($5,000) were 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians, Mark Adams, Agua Calinete Band of Cahuilla Indians, The Bank, Barkingham Palace, Karen and Tony Barone, Diageo, Gilead Sciences, Annette Guzman, Patrick Jordan, Kimpton Rowan, Koffi, Frank Kurland, Laboratory Corporation of America, Loan Depot, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Supervisor Manuel V. Perez, Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, Signs by Tomorrow (Image 360), Sysco Riverside, Spectrum, Trio, and Union Bank of California Foundation.

THE $12 MILLION ANNOUNCEMENT

Brinkman announced D.A.P.’s expansion plans, saying “More than 51% of Coachella Valley residents live in poverty, and an estimated 40,000 people in our service area remain without access to healthcare.  Nearly half of D.A.P.’s new patients don’t have HIV.  Clients without insurance come to D.A.P. because they need compassionate care from a doctor, dentist, or psychiatrist.”

D.A.P.’s plan to expand its campus includes renovation of existing buildings, constructing a pavilion to bridge them into a 70,000 sq. ft. facility, and the addition of 60 additional units of affordable housing.  The expansion will increase the capacity of the medical clinics to serve 8,000 patients yearly, and double the capacity of the dental clinic to 2,000 patients.  Brinkman concluded, “We will nearly triple our capacity to provide robust mental health services and to house 75% more people, thereby eliminating the apartments’ three-year wait list.”

Brinkman was then joined on stage by volunteers, board members, and some supporters who have given gifts of various sizes, including Harold Clumeck, Carl Baker, Michelle Finney, Paul Kowal, Jim Cox of the Jack Pujh Trust, Georgia and Jerry Fogelson, Steve Tobin and Johnny Kruppa of the Grace Helen Spearman Foundation.

He thanked fellow board member Kyle Mudd and his husband Louis Smith who announced their stunningly generous gift of $3 million!  He also announced that the late John Rock left $2 million to D.A.P. in his will.  Brinkman also recalled a $3 million gift two years ago from Annette Bloch and last year’s $3 million gift from Desert Regional Medical Center and Tenet Healthcare.  All totaled, gifts of $12 million are already pledged toward making this humanitarian healthcare home a reality.  The expansion of the D.A.P. campus is projected to cost $20 million.

En Vogue then performed many of their greatest hits including Free Your Mind, My Lovin’, and  Don’t Let Go (Love). Known as the “original funky divas” the group has been trendsetters since 1989.

VIP PRE-PARTY & AFTER PARTIES

The Friday evening VIP Pre-Party was held at The Bank, where its party producer Frank Goldstin of Momentous Events, designed a very edgy cityscape environment in the parking lot. Goldstin said, “The building was my canvas — a perfect blank palette for our eye-candy in the colors of the party.”  Goldstin’s eye candy included 12’ high, lighted crystal adorned blossom trees washed in color and moving visuals.  DJ Baz provided an upbeat soundtrack that brought it all to life with Lulu Catering serving tasty appetizers and cocktails.  Goldstin’s summation: “I wanted to really create something unexpected.”

They were joined by iconic Disco Queen Thelma Houston, singing her disco anthem Don’t Leave Me This Way.  Houston is known for her dedicated support of AIDS Services organizations and many other humanitarian causes.

D.A.P. 100 Women member Ogniana Masser enjoyed a backstage reunion with Ms. Houston before the After Party.  Her late husband Michael Masser wrote several of Houston’s hit songs in the 70’s and 80’s including Piano Man, I’m Just a Part of Yesterday, No One’s Gonna Be a Fool Forever, Together, Little Bit A Heaven And a Little Bit A Hell, Someone That I Used to Love, and Your Eyes to name a few.  Ms. Houston reminisced with Ogniana, “Michael knew how to write a great hook making a song appealing and engaging to the ear.”Guests danced away the night to the strains of these DJ Disco classics.

THE GUESTS

Among the glamorous seen at this marathon event were Harold Matzner, Will Grimm, Gary Hall and Jerry Green, Nancy Stone, Peggy Cravens, Al Jones, Susan Stein, Nelda Linsk, Steven Henke, Art Williams and Gene Leone, Andy and Marylynn Gladstein, Willie Rhine and Albert Gonzales, Kevin Bass and Brent Bloesser, Andri Mursean Brian Douglas and Jim Hodgkins, Michael and Barry Nadeau, Ronn Burns and Louis Falarano, Jan Harnik, Lynn Hammond, Andy Linsky, Jeff Gundvaldson and Troy Bermel, Chuck Hasse, Gary Soto and Matt Tully, John McDonald and Rob Wright, Dennis Flaig-Moore and Clinton Moore, Michael Shaw and Clark Dugger, Jan Hawkins, Keith Cornell and Mark Deubner, Stewart Boxer, Bart Ketover, Nancy Tapick, Dan McIntyre and Norman Luke, Brian Rix and Jack Farmer, Raju and Jaishri Mehta, Tim Wood and Jim Scheibel, Jeffrey Norman, Brian Wanzek, Paul Clowers, Randy Isaacs and Tom Scrocco, Rabbi Sally Olins, Barbara and Jerry Keller, Daniel Waldman, Glen Pietradoni, Omar Elkabchi, Paul Huynh, Marty Massiello, Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, Mark Hamilton and Juan Francisco, David Perez, Carolyn and Daniel Caldwell, Chris Ruetz, and Darrell Tucci.

For information on upcoming D.A.P. events please call (760) 323-2118 or go to info@desertaidsproject.org

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