Charity: Desert Cancer Foundation

By Heidi Simmons

“Our organization was founded in 1994 by the late, oncologist, Doctor Sebastian George, along with Art and Cory Teichner of Indian Ridge Country Club in Palm Desert. It was their vision that nobody go without cancer treatment because of their inability to pay,” said Paula Simonds, Executive Director of the Desert Cancer Foundation. “We assist the uninsured and under-insured. People don’t budget for the added costs of cancer treatment and we’re here to help those in need.”

The Desert Cancer Foundation provides resources for those who need financial assistance in obtaining screening, diagnosis and treatment for all types of cancer and allied disease.

“Cancer touches so many people,” said Simonds. “I’m honored to be in this position with an organization that is well-respected, has such longevity and helps so many people. It’s an opportunity to be an advocate for those in our community who have received a cancer diagnosis.”


In 2015, the foundation provided an equivalent of $64,000,000 in help from only $8,000,000 in donations. Over 7,500 people have been assisted by the organization. Every dollar donated is worth $10.

Simonds has been serving as the foundation’s director for just over two years, but she has been involved with non-profit organizations for over 20 years. Simonds served as Community Program Director for the YMCA of the Desert for eight years before taking over as the Cancer Foundation’s director.

“Personally I saw what my aunt went through with cancer and how that affected the family,” said Simonds. “It’s incredible to be in a position to make a difference in the lives of those in the valley.”

Paula Simonds - family photoBorn and raised in Modesto, California, Simonds and her husband, who is in the golf industry, made the CV home in 1996. The couple have two grown sons and an assortment of beloved rescue pets. “I have a passion for animals,” said Simonds. “I’m thankful to Pet Rescue Center and Christine Madruga for helping me find my dogs.”

Simonds most admires her parents and in-laws as they have represented what marriage means. “Life gives us many ups and downs but to be able to honor the commitment, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow, has inspired me in my 28 years of marriage,” said Simonds.

As for hobbies, Simonds likes to be engaged in her community. She serves on the City of La Quinta Community Services Commission. “I’m a workaholic. When I’m with others in our community, it’s my hobby,” said Simonds. “When I don’t have my executive director hat on, I love being out in the community and participating in local events.”

Simonds favorite movie is The Sound of Music and her favorite musicians are Kenny Chesney and Aubrey Road. Her favorite vacation spot is “Anywhere I get to spend time with my family!’

There are currently 21 Desert Cancer Foundation board members and Simonds is always inspired and amazed by their hard work. “They give so willingly and freely of their time to help our valley residents,” said Simonds. “It’s not always easy and it can be time consuming. I’m incredibly proud because they are so passionately committed to maintaining the mission of our founders.”

Simonds often shares wisdom with COD students she mentors. “I always say, ‘don’t change who you are because of someone else.’ I value that I am able to come alongside those who need help and guidance. I learn something new every day. I may have a title of Executive Director, but it’s only a title. It’s really about getting the job done. I’m a boots-on-the-ground type of gal, and I will never ask anything of anybody that I wouldn’t do myself.”

All the money raised for the foundation stays in the CV. “Every dollar that is donated translates to cancer care,” said Simonds. “We’re grateful for every dollar and never minimize what we raise whether it’s $100 or $100,000. It re-enforces the community’s willingness to give back. It is personally satisfying that we are able to help people focus on their well-being so that they don’t have to make a decision to forego their cancer treatment.”

It is in Simonds nature to help others. “I value the service that non-profits provide our community,” said Simonds. “It’s very collaborative. We have a lot of community support and generous partners that make it possible. I love being in work that makes an impact in the lives of so many.”

“Every day, I wake up wanting to make a difference for those I come across and meet along the way,” said Simonds. “It’s wonderful. There are so many rewarding facets to non-profit work.”