30 Years of service by Desert AIDS Project …
Supported by 20 years of Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards

The very first Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards on February 13, 1995 … which has grown to become one of the “must-attend, hot tickets” on the Coachella Valley social calendar … was first staged 10 years after Desert AIDS Project was incorporated on August 22, 1984 as a part of the Community Counseling & Consultation Center.

In 1995, the gala was a progressive affair, co-chaired by Dr. David Kaminsky and D.A.P. board member Deirdre Coit. After “a special dining experience created by world-renowned Tuscan chef Giuliano Bugialli” at Wally’s Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage, everyone moved to The McCallum Theatre for a cocktail reception with the honorees.

Professor Luc Montagnier was recognized for his work as Head of the Department of AIDS & Retroviruses and the Institut Pasteur in Paris, as well as President of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention. His fellow honoree was actress and activist Mary Steenburgen. They were presented with their awards before the inaugural gala attendees enjoyed a concert by the legendary Harry Belafonte, who has long been as famous for his activism as he is for his acting and singing.

Andy Linsky, long-time board member and donor to D.A.P., as well as founder of its Partners for Life annual giving program was listed in the gala program as secretary of the board of directors, in addition to serving on the gala committee. Among dozens of others listed on committees, many of whom are still supporters of D.A.P., were Father Andrew Green as board member and Steve Kaufer as board treasurer. Green left the D.A.P. board in 2011 after continuous service to the organization since 1993. Although Kaufer took a board hiatus after many years of service to D.A.P. in its earliest days, he again serves as a board member, including as chair of the governance committee, which helps to identify new board members.

Current Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards gala co-chairs, Barbara Keller and Jim Casey, would seem to be cut from the same cloth of devoted service to Desert AIDS Project. However, they had good models to follow, such as Tim Hanlon of Wells Fargo and long-time supporters Bill Jones, Dick Taylor, and others who have put in countless hours for what has become a signature event for raising funds as well as awareness for Desert AIDS Project.

“In addition to serving as D.A.P. board chair and board member respectively, Barbara and Jim are committed to bringing a better experience to our gala attendees each year,” said David Brinkman, CEO of D.A.P.  “The funds raised have increased under their tenure – last year, the total was more than $1.4 million. And we couldn’t do it without Jim’s company, Integrated Wealth Management, taking the lead as presenting sponsor for seven consecutive years … to the tune of a total of $1.5 million!”

It all began with Steve Chase and Heart Strings

On February 16-17,1992 the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS (DIFFA) and The NAMES Project Foundation brought the national tour of Heart Strings, The AIDS Memorial Quilt, and You: An Event in 3 Acts to the Palm Springs area, the second stop before travelling on to a total of 34 American cities. The program’s welcome letter from the event chair, internationally known interior designer and long-time D.A.P. volunteer/donor Steve Chase … and living with an AIDS diagnosis himself … read, in part:

The first national tour was very successful, raising over four and one half million dollars, and hopefully this one will be even more successful.

It has been a privilege for me to chair this event because I believe so strongly in the message conveyed and its importance to our population. The greatest appeal to me is that the income from this event will remain here in the desert to benefit Desert AIDS Project, a wonderful organization that we have watched grow from a very small size, to a much larger, well-run operation offering numerous services to people living with AIDS and to the needs of their loved ones.

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy this evening’s show, and the memories of it will motivate you to continue to work with us in the battle against AIDS. We cannot do it without you.

In Act One, a new production of Heart Strings combined musical numbers with the words of people living with or affected by AIDS. Act Two was a public display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt while Act Three was a call-to-action, encouraging people to volunteer at local AIDS groups.

When the curtain rose for the first time for Heart Strings in 1986, actor David Hasselhof read excerpts from a diary, which were followed by staged musical selections. Throughout the show, the audience thought they were hearing the words of a person with AIDS. At the end, Hasselhof closed his book and said, “This evening I have been reading from the diaries of a young woman, Etty Hillesum. She died at Auschwitz in 1944. She was 28 years old.”

There was an audible gasp from the audience, as they recognized the basic premise that life, prejudice and death are void of time and circumstance. Although it continued to evolve and change in its staging, Heart Strings became a vehicle for people not directly affected by AIDS to relate to the broader human impact of this tragic disease.

After being honored at “A Valentine’s Gala” in 1993, along with former First Lady Betty Ford and Joan Kroc, McDonald’s heiress and the Steve Chase interior design client who was persuaded by him to donate one of her private residences to provide funding for D.A.P.’s first medical clinic, D.A.P.’s gala namesake succumbed to AIDS in 1994. The board, donors, and volunteers of Desert AIDS Project lost no time in properly honoring his legacy with the 1st Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards in 1995.

Fast Forward to 2014 … continuing to mix music and mission

From Harry Belafonte to Diahann Carroll to Charo to Erasure to Patti LaBelle and so many other performers… from the stages of Broadway and worldwide concert venues … 19 years of “the Steve Chase” have brought noteworthy entertainment to its audiences. All the while, these galas have stood firmly in their activism and advocacy, reminding attendees that AIDS is not over.

Since the annual gala exists to recognize not only the work of research scientists and the heroes of medicine, but also those in the arts who are equally committed to activism, it seemed a natural  in this 20th year for Keller and Casey to create a special “AIDS in Cinema” Arts & Activism Award. It will honor well-known films that have made a special impact on the world’s understanding of this disease – culminating in a special video clip of the 30 years of Desert AIDS Project. One or more yet-to-be-identified “Hollywood heavies” will also be in attendance, to accept the special award.

“Whether their entertainment preferences run to Broadway musical theatre, dance, or great movies, anyone attending the 2014 gala will get a bit of it all,” Keller said.

“Whatever your taste, we’ve got some great entertainment, to keep the evening moving along,” added Casey. “I’m pretty sure everyone will leave with a smile on their face and a song in their heart.”


20th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Palm Springs Convention Center
Cocktails & Silent Auction @ 5:30 PM
Dinner, Awards & Entertainment @ 7:00 PM
After-Party @ 9:00 PM

It will be a dual-anniversary …

… When the 20th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards gala comes to the Palm Springs Convention Center to honor those who have been a big part of D.A.P. over its 30 years of service to the communities of the Coachella Valley.

Curt Ringness, immediate past chair of the D.A.P. board of directors, will receive the 30th Anniversary, Board of Director’s – Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of his service to the organization since 2000. Terri Ketover, also a D.A.P. board member, will receive the 100 Women Award, in honor of more than doubling the ranks of the 100 Women annual giving program that benefits women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. As a salute to their many years of support to Desert AIDS Project, the very generous David Kaplan and Glenn Ostergaard will be honored with the Partners for Life Award.