Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley (WLF) will celebrate outstanding professionals and aspiring young women in our community at the 9th Annual Women Who Rule! Awards and Scholarship Fundraiser taking place May 6, at the Classic Club in Palm Desert. 

Four extraordinary Coachella Valley women and one visionary “Man of the Year” will be honored for their leadership, public service and entrepreneurship, while high school girls who have completed WLF’s Young Women Leaders program will be awarded college scholarships.

The luncheon, presented by the prestigious law firm SBEMP, will be hosted by KESQ News Channel 3’s Laurilie Jackson and the City of Indio’s Brooke Beare. The event begins at 11 a.m. with an elegant champagne reception followed by the awards program and luncheon at noon. 

This year’s outstanding honorees include:

Debbie Espinosa, CEO of FIND Food Bank of the Coachella Valley, who will receive the Mary T. Roche Community Leadership Award. Espinosa has served in the nonprofit sector for 30 years and has led the way in safely feeding our hungry neighbors during the pandemic and beyond. Her tireless work and community leadership is well known throughout the Coachella Valley.

Calista Vassios and Rhea Hoffman, founders of Vaccinate Inland Empire (“Vaxie”), will receive the WLF Visionary Award. What started as two friends concerned about their most at-risk neighbors has turned into a growing organization of over 25 volunteers that has helped more than 78,000 individuals get vaccinated since February 2021. 

Haley Clawson, Chief Meteorologist, KESQ News Channel 3, will receive the WLF Inspiration Award. Beyond her on-air presence, Clawson is a passionate proponent of education. Her non-profit raises scholarship funds for young women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as an avenue to success.

Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oakview Group, will receive WLF’s Man of the Year Award. Leiweke is co-founder of the Oakview Group, which is bringing the new Acrisure Arena to the Coachella Valley. Leiweke is a longtime leader with over 40 years in the sports and entertainment industry. The Oakview Group is well known for its commitment to hiring women and the Acrisure Arena is leading the way with many Coachella Valley women executives and team members on board.

“All of our selected honorees serve as role models for our accomplished members of WLF and the young women we mentor,” states WLF President Jenell VanDenBos. 

Proceeds raised at the luncheon directly fund college scholarships for the best and brightest enrolled in WLF’s Young Women Leaders Program with up to a $30,000 matched from OneFuture Coachella Valley. This year, longtime WLF member Charissa Farley-Hay has also pledged to match up to $5,000 of donations made through the organization’s website at www.wlfdesert.org.

Leadership sponsors include Desert Health; CV Strategies; Iris Event Planning; Blanke Schein Wealth Management; The Practice CPAs; KESQ News Channel 3; buzzbox premium cocktails; Jenell VanDenBos & Assoc. Real Estate; Desert Care Network; Solowitz CPA; Chase Bank; Classic Club; and Wildest Restaurant + Bar.

Founded in 2001 by former Indian Wells Mayor and Councilmember, Mary T. Roche, WLF has mentored hundreds of young women and raised more than $700,000 in college scholarships.

Please join us May 6, or consider an online contribution to next year’s scholarship recipients. Luncheon tickets are $95 for members and $125 for non-members. 

For tickets and more information about WLF membership, programs and events, or to make a scholarship donation, visit www.wlfdesert.org.

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