CVIndependent

Thu07092020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

When Andrea “Andi” Spirtos was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, she did not have health insurance, and had to figure out how to come up with at least $700 per month for treatment.

“I sold everything I could think of to sell,” she said. “I’d literally fast so I could save enough money for my chemo.”

Spirtos’ story is all too common—and that’s why the Desert Cancer Foundation exists. The nonprofit was founded in 1994 by Cory Teichner, Arthur Teichner and Dr. Sebastian George, and since then has helped many thousands of cancer patients who are uninsured, underinsured or otherwise lacking funds to pay for their care. Today, cancer-survivor Spirtos is in a much better place; in fact, she works for the Desert Cancer Foundation as its director of donor development.

October is going to be a busy month for Spirtos and the rest of the folks involved with the Desert Cancer Foundation, because it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The foundation, with some help from the Miramonte Resort and Spa, is kicking off the month a little early: From 5 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 26, the Miramonte will launch “Think Pink,” a month-long series of events and specials, during which some of the proceeds will be donated to the Desert Cancer Foundation.

The launch party will include a fountain commemoration, live music and specialty pink cocktails. Through October, the Vineyard Lounge will offer those special pink drinks, and each Thursday, Gina Carey will perform, and donate $5 of each CD she sells. The WELL Spa will offer special “Think Pink” treatments, and the Miramonte will accept donations for the foundation at the front desk.

Of course, the Desert Cancer Foundation has more big plans for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

On Saturday, Oct. 12, El Paseo in Palm Desert will be the site of one of the Desert Cancer Foundation’s biggest events: Paint El Paseo Pink. Through Oct. 5, individuals and teams can register online to participate for about $25 per person; on-site registration begins at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 12, with the walk starting with an opening ceremony at 9:30. The foundation, with the help of the Desert Healthcare District, hopes to raise at least $150,000 at the event, and some El Paseo businesses are getting involved; for example, Spirtos praised Brighton Collectibles for holding a special “Girlfriends Day” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., during which some of the proceeds will go to Paint El Paseo Pink.

However, raising money is not the only goal of the event.

“We’d like to raise awareness for people to get screenings,” Spirtos said. “Not just women; men can contract breast cancer as well.”

Spirtos said she’s proud of the fact that thanks to the support of local sponsors and the medical community, the Desert Cancer Foundation arranges $7 in services for every dollar donated.

“It’s wonderful to have people coming together to support the foundation,” Spirtos said.

For more information on the Desert Cancer Foundation, or to register for Paint El Paseo Pink, visit desertcancerfoundation.org. For more on the Miramonte Resort and Spa, visit www.miramonteresort.com.

Published in Local Issues

Sandra Austin doesn’t think fathers get the respect they deserve.

She tells a story about a man she knows whose significant other passed away. They had been raising six kids together—and four of them aren’t biologically his own. Nonetheless, he’s carrying on: He’s now a single father, and doing everything he can for those six kids.

“He stepped up,” Austin says. “That’s commendable. He needs support.”

That’s one reason why Austin—the co-founder of the Family Health and Support Network—has given the nonprofit organization’s annual Juneteenth in the Coachella Valley event the theme “Fatherhood: Dispel the Myth.”

The sixth-annual event, presented by Augustine Casino, takes place on Saturday, June 15, at the La Quinta Resort. The celebration of African-American culture and heritage is a benefit for the Family Health and Support Network’s foster-care program. Performers include gospel/soul singer Gina Carey, and headlining singer L. Young. E.M. Abdulmumin, the founder of the DuBois Institute and the developer of Riverside County’s Building Resilience in African-American Families program, will offer the keynote address.

Every year, Juneteenth has had a different theme. However, Austin feels so strongly about the need to support good fathers that she says she may give the event a focus on fatherhood every year from now on.

“It’s really needed in our community,” she says.

While Juneteenth in the Coachella Valley focuses on African-American heritage—Austin says she’s been trying for years to “motivate” the valley’s black population to show off its culture—FHSN’s foster-care efforts involve the entire community. Frankly, the foster-care community needs all the support it can get, especially here in the Coachella Valley.

FHSN has contracts with Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties to place children who need foster care. Austin says FHSN—which she co-founded a decade ago—currently works with around 38 foster homes, and about 10 of those are in the Coachella Valley.

That’s not nearly enough.

“We’re one of the very few agencies physically located in the Coachella Valley, so we often get the calls (for Coachella Valley kids needing foster homes) first,” Austin says.

More than half of the time, when FHSN receives a call about a foster child needing placement, FHSN has to say no, Austin says: There aren’t enough qualified foster homes in the valley. That means those children get placed by other agencies in homes that are farther away from the area those kids know.

“Our primary goal is to put out the plea for foster parents,” Austin says. “… Maybe it’s because we have the reputation for being a resort town or whatever; there wasn’t much awareness. Some people didn’t even know they receive financial assistance (when they take in a foster child).”

So this year’s Juneteenth celebration has multiple goals, according to Sandra Austin. It’s a fundraiser for the foster-care program; it’s an event to honor African-American culture; and it’s an opportunity to give the community’s good, caring fathers a much-needed shout-out.

“That’s been my focus, that people will become aware that there is an African-American community here. And there’s a need for foster parents. And there’s a need for elders—African-American (and other) men to work with the youth population,” she says.

Juneteenth in the Coachella Valley, presented by Augustine Casino, takes place on Saturday, June 15, at the La Quinta Resort and Club, 49499 Eisenhower Drive in La Quinta. The theme for this year’s event, a benefit for the Family Health and Support Network, is “Fatherhood: Dispel the Myth.” The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception, and is followed by dinner, performances, the keynote and the Pioneer Awards ceremony at 7 p.m. Guests are encouraged to wear “smart casual white.” Tickets are $60 for general admission, and $50 for FHSN foster parents; VIP tickets are sold out. For more information or to buy tickets, call 760-340-2442, or visit www.juneteenthcv.com. For more information on the Family Health and Support Network, visit www.fhsnet.org.

Published in Local Fun