By Madeline Zuckerman

(left to right) Michael Gilliam, JoAnne Gilliam, this year’s Volunteer Of The Year Awardee, David Z., this year’s Client Of The Year Awardee, and Martha Gonzalez, Supervisor in Desert Arc’s Sports & Recreation Program.

With a record crowd of 350 loyal supporters, Desert Arc hosted its Fifth Annual Champions Of Change Recognition Awards Luncheon, which honors local individuals and companies in our Valley who champion Desert Arc’s mission.  This year’s luncheon, held at Agua Caliente Resort Casino & Spa in Rancho Mirage, raised $ 85,000.00 to benefit Desert Arc’s life-impacting programs and services for people with disabilities.

“I am very moved by the tremendous turnout of 350 people at our Fifth Annual Awards luncheon, with 100 more patrons present then we have ever experienced at previous fundraising events,” said Richard Balocco, Desert Arc’s President/CEO.  “I am especially inspired by the personal accomplishments of our Client Of The Year Awardees, people with disabilities who come to Desert Arc with goals that our human services agency nurtures and supports through our comprehensive offering of programs and services.   And, I am deeply thankful to our Board of Directors, staff, and all of the individuals, businesses, and desert community cities we recognize for championing our cause every day.”

(left to right) Richard Balocco, President/CEO of Desert Arc, Madeline Zuckerman, President & Owner of M. Zuckerman Marketing & Public Relations, Inc. who was this year’s Champion Of The Year Awardee, Damian Jenkins, Desert Arc Board Chair, and Brooke Beare, Celebrity Emcee, Emmy® Award Winning Journalist, Desert Arc Board Member and past Board Chair.

Nancy Singer, Event Chair and long-standing Desert Arc Board member and past Board Chair, teamed up with Celebrity Emcee Brooke Beare, Emmy® Award-Winning Journalist and long-standing Desert Arc Board Member and immediate past Board Chair, to make this year’s event the most memorable.


“I cannot thank Nancy Singer and Brooke Beare enough for their years of service and commitment to Desert Arc,” said Richard Balocco, President/CEO of Desert Arc.  “Desert Arc has been on an amazing journey from its humble beginnings in 1959 to its present-day leadership role in serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Thank you for joining us in celebration of Desert Arc’s everyday heroes!”

Desert Arc Clients of the Year Awardees: (left to right) Joseph C., Jason C., Shenolene P., Robert Y., Nancy Singer, Event Chair & Board Member of Desert Arc, Richard Balocco, President/CEO of Desert Arc, Christian B., Jose V., David Z., and Toinesha S

Awards were presented in the following categories:

  • Champion Of The Year – Madeline Zuckerman, Owner & President of Madeline Zuckerman Marketing & Public Relations, Inc.
  • Business Partner Of The Year – The City Of Rancho Mirage
  • Business Star Of The Year – Computer Consultants
  • Outstanding Volunteer Of The Year – JoAnne Gilliam, Tennis Coach & Zumba Dance Instructor
  • Corporate Philanthropist Of The Year – Hot Purple Energy
  • Clients Of The Year – – People Served By Desert Arc’s Mission:
Photo on Right: The City Of Rancho Mirage, this year’s Business Partner Of The Year Awardee– (left to right) Brooke Beare, Celebrity Emcee and Emmy® Award-Winning Journalist, Board Member & past Board Chair, Steve Downs, Mayor Pro Tem of Rancho Mirage, Lynn Mallotto, Rancho Mirage Council Member, Ted Weill, Rancho Mirage Council Member, and Damian Jenkins, Desert Arc Board Chair.

Christian B. – Yucca Valley Work Activity Program

Joseph C. – Supported Employment Program

Jason C. – Palm Desert Adult Day Program

Kevin G. – Shredding & Recycling Division

Shenolene P. – Individual Placement Program

Toinesha S. – For Your Independence Program

Jose V. – Landscape Maintenance Division

Robert Y. – Supported Employment Program

David Z. – Sports and Recreation Program

Computer Consultants, this year’s Business Star Of The Year Awardee – (left to right) Pat Martin, Jarrod Solomon, and Arthur Sanchez.

“Desert Ac’s Annual Champions Of Change Recognition Awards Luncheon is a very inspirational event, as it brilliantly showcases our mission in motion with heartwarming stories about people with disabilities who participate in our programs,” noted Damian Jenkins, Desert Arc Board Chair.  “It’s an amazing opportunity for our nonprofit to recognize and honor other individuals and organizations in the larger community who champion our vital cause.”

Major luncheon Sponsors included Harold Matzner, Presenting Sponsor; The City of Rancho Mirage and Eisenhower Health, Premium Sponsors; Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, City Of Rancho Mirage, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Hot Purple Energy, Edeltraud McCarthy Foundation, Nancy Singer, Doug and Verna Watson, and Madeline Zuckerman Marketing & Public Relations Inc., Platinum Sponsors; Richard Balocco, Darlene Beneto, City of Indian Wells, City of Indio, First Foundation Bank, Visit Greater Palm Springs, Michael Green, Barry Kaiman & Toni Victor, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, Erica Davis-Popely, Pacific Western Bank, Dr. Ron A. Stewart, PH.D., and The Management Trust, Gold Sponsors.

(left to right) Gina Otto and Carolyn Lumber, accepting the Award for Hot Purple Energy, who was this year’s Corporate Philanthropist Of The Year Awardee.

“I am humbled by this special recognition regarding my work,” said Madeline Zuckerman, Desert Arc’s Champion Of The Year Awardee.  “I became involved with Desert Arc over five years ago, and have seen firsthand how successful this human services agency’s in-depth programs are for people with disabilities.  Desert Arc has created a community and family for these adults with disabilities, and their clients find comfort to live their lives with Desert Arc’s help.”

This year’s Media Sponsors included Presenting Sponsor THE DESERT SUN & LOCALiQ, Exclusive TV Sponsor KESQ News Channel 3, and Exclusive Radio Sponsor Alpha Media – Palm Springs.

“As the Chair of Desert Arc’s two annual fundraising events, I am overwhelmed with the response and support we received this year for our Annual Champions Luncheon,” said Nancy Singer.  “This event is a wonderful celebration of the achievements of our clients in reaching their personal goals through the guiding support of Desert Arc’s dedicated program team.”

Save The Date of Wednesday, February 8, 2024 for the Fifth Annual “Champions of Change” Recognition Awards Luncheon.


Desert Arc boasts an impressive 64-year history of providing comprehensive services for over 700 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities within the Coachella Valley, the Morongo Basin, and outlying Desert Communities.

For more information on how you can assist Desert Arc with its vital programs please call 760-404-1368 or visit