Honoring those in our community moving health and wellness forward. The 2017 Wellness Awards took place May 18th at Desert Willow Golf Resort.

Congratulations to our 2017 nominees and winners!

View Official Event Program Here

2017 Nominees


2017 WINNER: Jason Tate
Founder Human Health Initiative, Educator

Seven years ago, this Indio High teacher wrote a course entitled Physiology of Digestion to help students understand the effects of food. Further inspired, he developed the 4-year Health & Nutritional Sciences Academy of Wellness teaching pre-med, nutrition, yoga, functional medicine, and more. A student-run Wellness Clinic is also underway propelling our next generation of valley health care practitioners.


“All of the willpower to achieve optimal health is limited only by your knowledge of what it takes to do so.”


Chuck Amendola, CNHP

As a certified natural health practitioner, Chuck uses a synergistic blend of traditional and natural health principles to facilitate pain relief and functional performance improvements for his clients. He has been a health and wellness advisor for Palm Springs’ police and fire departments, and worked with the county’s Department of Public Social Services in protecting the well-being of valley seniors who had outlived their family and friends.


FINALIST: Anthony Cruz
Chef & Health Advocate

A diagnosis of type II diabetes led Anthony to make significant life changes. When his newly adopted plant-based diet reversed his diagnosis, he quit his job as a youth corrections officer, enrolled in two plant-based culinary schools and became certified in plant-based nutrition. He now teaches young people the benefits and joy of plant-based cooking in valley schools and with Culturas Music and Arts in Indio.


“I believe in educating, empowering and providing individuals with the necessary tools to help fight against diseases of affluence which are on the rise.”


Denise-DuBarry-HayFINALIST: Denise DuBarry Hay, BYT
Bikram Yoga Instructor and Business Owner

A practicing yogi since 1979, Denise has shared her passion for wellness through fitness and health businesses opening Malibu Yoga in 1986 and Bikram University Yoga locally in 2011. She has served on many non-profit boards and gives her time generously to organizations that strengthen the health of our community.   


“I believe that to evolve as humans, we must try to reach our highest potential. Through yoga, one can learn how to calm the mind, strengthen the body and allow the spirit to soar.”


Dr-Lemay-imageBruno Lemay, DDS

Dr. Lemay struggled with the number of people in the desert who needed, but couldn’t afford, dental implants. He saw how it was affecting their ability to eat and live healthy lives and made it his mission to create a low cost option which he now teaches to other dentists throughout the US and Canada. 


“When a client who has suffered tells me that this [procedure] is the best thing they have done in life, I know I have accomplished my purpose.”


Jayne-Photo-Shoot-July-25-2015-DAY-013-2Jayne Robertson
BAppSci, GradDipEx/Sport Science, E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga Therapist

As a certified yoga therapist, yoga teacher, studio owner and wellness advocate, Jayne has helped thousands improve their health and strengthen their mind-body-soul connection in her 35 years of practice. She not only shares her gift with clients, but through SEVA (service) with many local organizations and globally.


“This work gives me an avenue to support not only individual, but global, change. To bring peace to our world, we must recognize that peace begins within.”


HONORARY WINNER: Our Partner in Health, Janet Zappala
News Anchor & Your Health Matters Reporter

Her passion for health and wellness led to a tailored television news segment educating our community on medical, wellness, and nutrition practices. She is also a certified nutritional consultant and recently authored a healthy cookbook. She freely gives her timely both personally and professionally to help local non-profits focusing on health and wellness generate support and growth.


“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life – and when you help people, it’s just good karma!”



thrive-logo2017 WINNER: Thrive Fitness Studio

More than a fitness studio, Thrive is a transformational experience that starts from the inside out in helping people become their best self. Members call themselves the Thrive Tribe and have not only shed pounds and gotten fit through the program, but have established concrete and lasting lifestyle changes.

“We all have a gift and it is our responsibility to share that gift with the world. My gift, my responsibility, is to help people live their best life.” – Jay Nixon, Founder


BikramYogaPlusCVLogoF91516FINALIST: Bikram Yoga Plus

This multi-faceted studio offers a variety of programs with the shared goal of improving mind, body and soul. They have created and support an environment of health in all aspects of lives offering discounted programs for seniors, teachers and first responders; workshops for teens and tweens; and programs on healthy living and eating.

“We see transformations in people every day with less pain, lowered blood pressure and blood sugars, weight loss..people who are happier and now medication-free.” – Denise DuBarry Hay, Owner


4V-MotusFloat-NovDec16FINALIST: Mo’tus Floatation & Wellness Center

Louise Evans established Mo’tus as a multiple modality center to rebalance mind, body and spirit in 2016. They offer floatation, body work, fitness, and more with numerous complimentary educational workshops to educate and unite community.

“Improving quality and quantity of life is not just about the physical, but also the emotional, spiritual and mental balance we all need to find.” – Louise Evans, Owner


thriveThrive Functional Wellness Center

Under the guidance of Grey Rappe, DC, Thrive Wellness works to identify root causes of chronic conditions and to educate clients on nutrition, exercise and weight loss. Their team approach provides the tools and knowledge to bring about transformation and lasting change.

“We have so much passion about the work we do and personally follow our wellness program every day.” – Dr. Rappe



CVC_PNG2017 WINNER: Cielo Vista Charter School

Seven years ago, CVC implemented a “contagious and comprehensive sense of personal wellness” on campus. Healthy vending machines, a school fitness center, monthly newsletters, a ban on hot Cheetos and sports drinks, a school garden, chickens who provide eggs for cooking classes, and more have created a measurable improvement in the health for students, staff and families.

“We believe that if we teach health and wellness at a young age, we can lessen childhood obesity…As staff and community of a school, we must lead by example.”
– Tanya Niwa, Physical Education and Nutrition teacher


FINALIST: Desert Healthcare District and Foundation

As the largest funder of health and wellness programs in the valley, they have contributed over $66 million to improve local health. Their mission is to connect valley residents to health and wellness programs and services through philanthropy, health facilities, information and community education, and public policy.

“We are humble to partner with incredible community organizations, local government, and educational organizations to help ensure funding for those who need critically important services and programs.” – Herb Schultz, CEO


ACT_logoAct for MS

Act for MS is dedicated to improving the quality of life for local residents affected by multiple sclerosis through free programs and services including fitness, yoga, aquatics, seminars, bill assistance and more. Founded in 1999 by media legend Gloria Greer, the organization has helped over 350 residents affected by the condition.

“There’s no doubt my mother’s vision to create ACT for MS to help local patients like myself has been paramount to the quality of life we’re experiencing today.”  – Norma Greer, ACT for MS Client


Braille-logoBraille Institute of Rancho Mirage

For over 30 years, Braille Institute RM has been empowering visually impaired persons to live independent and fulfilling lives. Through free programs and services providing rehabilitation training and access to adaptive devices and technology, they serve thousands each year in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial Counties. 

“The current number of people with vision loss will double due to aging baby boomers, so the need for rehabilitative services will continue to grow.”
– Lisa Jimenez, Executive Director


parkinsonlogoParkinson’s Resource Organization

After being personally touched by the disease, Jo Rosen founded PRO in 1990 to provide services, resources, and local connection for those affected and their families. PRO now helps thousands through support groups, newsletters, coaching, outreach, training for caregivers and more.

“Until the cure, we help people achieve the greatest quality of life possible…with a disease that causes havoc in the life of the person affected and their family…” – Jo Rosen


safeHouse_vertical049d317FINALIST: SafeHouse of the Desert

SafeHouse is a 24-hour emergency shelter whose mission is to serve runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth ages 11–17 in the Valley. Services include emergency shelter, food, counseling, attempts at family reunification, on-site education programs, aftercare and a 24-hour toll-free crisis line. The organization has served over 6,000 youth and their families since its inception.

“SafeHouse provides a safe place for youth when they are at their most vulnerable. Our goal is to give kids opportunities, possibilities, and build hope that things can get better.” – Kathy McAdara, Executive Director



Mahdavi,-Hessam-MD.-6-28-11-(5)2017 WINNER: Hessam Mahdavi, MD, DC, CNS

Dr. Mahdavi was a chiropractor before obtaining his medical and then functional medicine qualifications giving him well-rounded training for integrative, whole person care. In his family practice, he prescribes lifestyle, nutrition, supplementation and medicine to bring about wellness with each individual, each family and throughout the community.


“The art and science of wellness, holistic and western medicine has made such a profound impact on – and saved – my life, that I wanted to give this knowledge and gift to others.” – Dr. Mahdavi


PSLDrAmaya0616_0009Celeste L. Amaya, MD

Embracing the mindset of whole person care, Dr. Amaya implements Eastern therapies in her Western medicine practice focusing on the mind-body connection to enhance healing. Meridian Access Therapy (a form of acupressure) combined with open discussions on the power of positive emotions have significantly helped her clients eliminate pain, neuropathy, fatigue, insomnia and more. 


“Meridian Access Therapy brings Eastern healing influence into my traditional Western medicine training enabling me to teach people how to get the body to work with the mind and achieve, not just a cure, but total body healing.” – Dr. Amaya


Bell-Davlantes_Tiffany-FNP-C_coat-(2)Tiffany Bell-Davlantes, FNP

In addition to the title of family nurse practitioner, Tiffany considers herself a coach, cheerleader, manager, promoter and fan. She engages in her patient’s lives to understand their values and culture to help implement healthy change. She uses holistic, alternative and medical knowledge and resources to deliver cost-effective and quality care.


“When a patient feels supported, valued, and respected, they are willing to make the sacrifices to change the course of their life and head down the path of healthier lifestyle choices.” – Tiffany Bell-Davlantes


Chris Flores, MD

Dr. Flores considers himself simply a thorough, well-trained and experienced family physician who tries to get to the root of problems instead of treating symptoms. Through that philosophy, he has inadvertently been practicing functional medicine for many years and teaches both doctors and consumers throughout the community on integrative health.

“I know that there are many more pathways to healing than those taught in medical school.” – Dr. Flores


LandersFINALIST: Elliot Lander, MD, FACS

Dr. Lander is the founder of  the California Stem Cell Treatment Center in Rancho Mirage. Since 2010, he has focused his efforts on implementing, researching and teaching regenerative medicine through stem cell technology. He formed the international Cell Surgical Network which now has the largest research database on the treatment of multiple conditions (auto-immune, cancer, trauma, neurological, degenerative disease, and more) through the use of patients’ own fat-derived stem cells.


“The serendipitous finding that we have stem cells just under our skin that can be safely used to mitigate human disease is one of the great discoveries of the early 21st century.”
– Dr. Lander


Pamela-PotenzoPamela Potenzo

Pamela is both a registered nurse and a board-certified holistic nurse which takes a mind, body and spirit practice approach for optimal health and healing. She provides consultations and workshops that focus on integrative wellness strategies and last year established a local chapter of the American Holistic Nurses Association to further the practice.


“I believe people can empower themselves and improve their health by integrating the best of both Eastern and Western health care practices.”


Kelli-Rose-1Kelli Rose
FST, MST, CST, Holistic Cancer Coach

Kelli’s 20 years of experience in the fitness, nutrition, therapeutic, holistic and medical worlds has led her to current career as a nutritional chef and therapist for those facing chronic conditions or simply looking to improve their health. Her vast community outreach includes helping displaced families and animals connect with loving new homes.


“Mindful eating reconnects us with our ground roots to our health and our planet.”


FINALIST: John V. Yuhas
RN, BA, ERYT 400

John is both a clinical nurse and an advanced yoga instructor who teaches only donation-based classes for non-profits. He also has a strong foundation in meditation, Ayurveda and music therapy and draws from all of these skills to help people heal. He also offers his gifts as a volunteer nurse with CV Volunteers in Medicine.


“Life is all about leveraging your passion to help others, and watching great changes unfold when we expect nothing in return.”



2017 WINNER: Jaelyn Moraga
Certified Yoga Teacher, StudentAt 14 years old, Jaelyn is the youngest certified yoga instructor in the country completing 200+ hours of training in a rigorous adult program. She has been dreaming of achieving this honor for over 4 years to help educate and teach her peers and adults the value of yoga and good health. She is an active teen who plays athletics, is on the student council and volunteers her time to the community every month.[clear]“You are never too young to make a difference. Find something you love to do and believe in yourself to accomplish it.” – Jaelyn Moraga


Stephanee-Sandoval-photoFINALIST: Stephanee Sandoval

Stephanee is a senior at Indio High with aspirations to study functional medicine at Harvard Medical School. As part of Future Physician Leaders, she educates other students and the community on health practices and careers. Graduating at the top of her class, she plans to return to continue mentoring on health care careers.


“I strongly believe that the relationship between doctor and patient can do more healing than a prescription medicine can ever do.”


Thank you to all who nominated these deserving candidates!

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Comments (2)

  • I have known Kelli Rose since 1998 or so since she was my personal trainer in LA and trainer to “the stars”. She is extremely intelligent and knowledgeable about diets, cooking, physical training/exercises and medications/vitamins/minerals…she is also active in saving the animals and has been a vegetarian since I’ve known her.
    She is truly a person who “makes a difference” in may lives and is compassionate and dedicated. She is very worthy of recognition for all she does for others, the community and society in general.

    • Lauren Del Sarto

      Thank you SO very much for your kind words, Vicki, and for reading Desert Health!

      Lauren Del Sarto


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