The Coachella Valley is a uniquely special place, and much of that has to do with our longstanding fervor for fun and philanthropy. Early on, our ever-shining sun and spectacular landscapes set the stage for our “playground to the stars.” Today, those same elements attract a variety of world-renowned events that entertain and support us.
But what is the most special thing about the Coachella Valley? It is no doubt the people behind all the good – and good times – we passionately cultivate and celebrate. We establish organizations to serve the greater good; we organize events and bring quality people together; and we attract gracious sponsors who enable us to thrive.
One of the first, and most recognized, events to bring celebrities, pros, presidents and spectators together for fun and fundraising was The Bob Hope Desert Classic. Originally launched in 1960 as the Palm Springs Golf Classic, the event has now raised over $64 million for local charities. We will all gather once again January 19-22 in the name of good times, golf and giving back at what is now known as The American Express.
There is no question; we excel at socializing and service which is clearly reflected in the number of events held annually, along with the vast quantity of charitable organizations. In addition to national causes with local offices, there are over 1,200 non-profits established in the Coachella Valley,1 significant for a community of only 400 square miles and just over 450,000 permanent residents.2
“We’re committed to backing our communities and continuing the longstanding legacy of supporting the Coachella Valley through our Impact Through Golf foundation,” said Shiz Suzuki, Vice President Global Brand Sponsorship and Experiential Marketing at American Express.
In 2022, they donated $1 million to 37 local non-profits through the foundation.
“We are so very grateful for The AmEx,” says Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Executive Director Doug Morin. “Grants such as this allow us to look to the future and plan for additional services and programs.” Like many, VIM is solely dependent on donations, contributions and event fundraising which enabled them to open a second free medical clinic last year to serve a broader popular.
Alzheimers Coachella Valley Co-founder and Board President Dominick Calvano says the AmEx grant allows them to continue their free community programs such as “Tunes for the Memory,” giving those struggling with cognitive issues locally “something to truly sing about.”
“It’s an honor to partner with this amazing event,” says Eevet Edens, executive director of Desert Cancer Foundation. “These funds will provide financial assistance for valley residents who otherwise could not afford or access vital cancer care treatment.”
Other national events making an impact include, but are certainly not limited to, the BNP Paribas Open whose Champions Volunteer Foundation has contributed over $2 million to 50 different local organizations since 2002 and the Tour de Palm Springs which has donated $4 million since 1999.
Two of the newest properties in town are following suit. The Galleri Classic, March 22-26 at Mission Hills Country Club, brings the PGA TOUR Champions back for the first time in 30 years and will benefit local non-profits assisting those affected by cancer in the different stages of their journey. Galleri is a multi-cancer, early detection blood test which can identify more than 50 types of cancer and where they are located in the body from a simple blood draw. Desert Health wrote about this groundbreaking technology in 2021, and we are thrilled that parent-company GRAIL has selected the Coachella Valley for their first sport sponsorship.
“We see The Galleri Classic as much more than just a golf tournament,” GRAIL CEO Bob Ragusa tells us. “At age 50 and older, PGA TOUR Champions players likely have personal experiences with cancer and can use this platform to inspire both their peers and fans to be more proactive about their health.”
The company chose golf as one of the few sports you can play well over 50 (when people are at higher risk for cancer) and our community for its excellence in golf – and health care.
“There’s such a rich history of golf in the Coachella Valley,” adds Ragusa. “There is also a tradition of excellence in health care in this region. It’s great to now be a part of those traditions by hosting The Galleri Classic at Mission Hills.”
It is important to GRAIL and the PGA TOUR that tournament proceeds stay within the greater Coachella Valley. “As a California-based company, we share in PGA TOUR Champions’ commitment to giving back to the communities where we work and live.”
Local beneficiaries include Desert Cancer Foundation, Eisenhower Health, Hanson House, Pendleton Foundation, Shay’s Warriors Life After Cancer and the American Cancer Society’s local affiliate.
“These generous contributions allow us to continue our mission of giving back to our cancer survivorship community that often gets forgotten,” states Shay’s Warriors Founder/Visionary/Cancer Thriver Shay Moraga. “It helps us pay for educational programs, tools and resources throughout the year so that survivors can continue to heal emotionally, physically and mindfully.”
The second property introducing a whole new level of fun and entertainment is Acrisure Arena and our first professional sport team, the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
“The Firebirds are committed to many community events, and we are excited about establishing our own 501c3 foundation which will allow us to do even more,” says Gina Rotolo, the Firebirds vice president of marketing and communications. “We are doing a lot to introduce and educate around hockey, as well as good sportsmanship and how to be a good community citizen and leader.”
With the team’s focus on education and outreach, their current programs provide educational opportunities, fundraising through ticket sale initiatives and promotional nights tied to local charities. Outreach includes street hockey programs and partnerships with YMCA of the Desert, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the desert.
“We are excited about teaching the next generation of young people – especially women – about getting into sports and sports management,” adds Rotolo. The arena and team have five women in VP-level roles and numerous others in leadership across every aspect of the organization. Rotolo and others have joined Women Leaders Forum in support of their Young Women Leaders program providing inspiration and encouragement to local high school girls.
The Galleri Classic Tournament Director Michelle DeLancy, who moved here from out of state, is in awe of how those in our community come together and support each other.
At the Acrisure Arena ribbon cutting event, founding partner and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Irving Azoff called the Coachella Valley “the little place that could.” What makes it so? It has always been its people.
Editorial by Desert Health Founder/Publisher Lauren Del Sarto. [email protected]
References: 1) HARC Data; 2) Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)