By Madeline Zuckerman

A tremendous outpouring of community support was on full display at the Third Annual Variety Children’s Charity of the Desert’s “Women of Wonder” Awards Luncheon held at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage. The overflow crowd of 200 guests sat spellbound as the five Honorees told their inspirational story of giving back in so many impactful ways.

(left to right) Floyd Rhoades, Mama’s House Board Member, Elizabeth Chambers, Honoree Jan Lupia, and Art Lupia, Mama’s House Vice Chairman of the Board.

“I am delighted to welcome the support of this generous community, as we recognize these five extraordinary women for outstanding and selfless dedication to serving children,” said Heidi Maldoon, Executive Director of Variety Children’s Charity of the Desert. “Our community especially embraces the opportunity to lift up those in need, and recognize the sacrifice, dedication, and passion of those making a difference. I am truly honored to be part of shining a light upon these women and their achievements to improve the well-being of Coachella Valley and its children.”

(left to right) Paul Villalobos, Honoree Sofia Campos, Tamara Canedo, Maxwell Lifschutz.

The Annual Awards Luncheon was established several years ago to honor and celebrate local women leaders who have made a difference in the lives of Coachella Valley children – – which is synergistic with Variety’s own mission of funding and delivering life-changing programs, giving Coachella Valley children a better future and ensuring every child experiences equality and inclusion.


As Margaret Thatcher once said “If You Want Something Done. . . Ask A Woman!

This year’s distinguished Honorees included:

John Sprogis, Executive Director of UCPIE with Heidi Maldoon, Executive Director of Variety Children’s Charity Of The Desert.

Jill Beighley, President of the Assistance League of Coachella Valley, which transforms the lives of children and adults through community programs. Jill is especially committed to helping children in underserved communities.  “Children can do great things and rise above their circumstances if given the right tools to succeed,” said Beighley.

Sofia Campos, An experienced Grant Writer who has dedicated over 20 years to serving the needs of the intellectually and developmentally disabled population. “Being recognized for this WOW Award means the world to me.  I am filled with gratitude and humility, standing alongside these amazing women in our community. Through serving, I have seen firsthand the impact we can make, and it is truly heartening,” said Campos.

Andrea Hecht, Executive Director of Tools For Tomorrow, a local organization that promotes cognitive, emotional, social, multi-sensory, and critical thinking skills by offering children a hands on experience.   “Through this event, Variety recognizes the important and valuable work we do. Tools For Tomorrow’s creative Fine Arts Programs for children promote self-esteem, enhance communication and expression, and build life skills. The Arts are powerful tools,” said Hecht.

(LEFT TO RIGHT) Kevin Casey, Chip Prince, Heath Richard, LT Cousineau, Mike Stokesberry, Jim Gnaster, Rick Elander, Mark Wienand, Alan Denny, Ted Scott, Linda Moran

Jan Lupia, Founder & Executive Director of Mama’s House, the only residential home within the Coachella Valley offering a safe, supportive, loving, and nurturing environment for women experiencing crises while pregnant and/or with an infant or small child who have no place to go and no means of support.  “I wish to thank Madeline Zuckerman for nominating me to be a Woman of Wonder.  I also want to thank the Blue Ribbon Committee, who had to make a difficult selection evaluating many awesome leaders.  That alone, makes it most amazing that I was chosen.  Thank you Heidi and congratulations to you and your incredible team for putting on such a wonderful event. May each luncheon and fundraising event from here on be even better than the last. I pray that God will richly and immeasurably bless the work you and your team put into the different projects that impact so many precious children in ways they will never forget.  YOU are a Wonder Woman!” said Lupia.

Dawn Rashid, An early childhood educator of 35 years, and an advocate and mentor to children including her dedication to the Big Hearts for Little Hearts Guild Of Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. “Receiving an award that involves touching the lives of children in need warms my heart!  If I can continue to give back, then my life is complete,” said Rashid.

A Cabbello, the desert’s very talented premier men’s vocal ensemble provided the upbeat entertainment, while guests feasted on a scrumptious menu.

“We want to extend our sincere gratitude to the Blue Ribbon Committee who worked so diligently on this luncheon, and who selected these incredible Women of Wonder, “ said Penny Salamida, Event Chair and Variety Board Member.  Blue Ribbon Committee Members included Penny Salamida, Tamara Canedo, Jacky Donnell, Karen Cornett, Julie Frazier Steve Haro, Barbara Klein, Linda Rider, Kara Robinson, Bob Schneider, and Heidi Maldoon.

Event Sponsors included Linda & Manny Rider, Contour Dermatology, Dawn Rashid, Seiden-Juku, Barbara & Larry Klein, Cypress Wealth Services, Ellen Roy, Elmer’s Restaurant, Precision Wellness, Jill Beighley, Mama’s House, Mary Pickford Theatre, M Premier Partners, Visit Greater Palm Springs, and Lowell Milken Family Foundation.

KESQ News Channel 3 was the event Media Sponsor.

About Variety Children’s Charity Of The Desert

Variety Children’s Charity of the Desert was formed in 1987, and is dedicated to improving the lives of children who are underprivileged, at- risk, critically ill, or living with special needs throughout the Coachella Valley. Variety is one of the oldest and most comprehensive children’s charities in the world with over 40 chapters worldwide. For more information, visit or call 760-773-9800.