I am such a sucker for a black-tie soiree. And when said formal affair doubles as a fundraiser for a stellar cause, well, frankly, what could be better? Such is the case with the 19th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, which were held at the Palm Springs Convention Center last Saturday, February 9th.
Make no mistake. For almost two decades, this has been a red-letter date on the Palm Springs Valley social calendar. But while similar local events such as the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala focus chiefly on the star honorees and presenters, the “Steve Chase,” as they’re known, are the biggest yearly benefit for the Desert AIDS Project and therefore prefer to shed the spotlight on members of the community who are making a difference either here at home or literally around the world. Those who were feted this year included AIDS activist Jake Glaser, 28, who was granted the Partners in Activism Award. Born with HIV, Glaser has followed in the footsteps of his mother—the late, great HIV/AIDS crusader Elizabeth Glaser—in effecting change. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation has, for more than 25 years, advocated on behalf of women and children affected by and/or infected with the disease, and just in Africa alone, has spared millions of lives by contributing to help stop the transmission of the virus between mother and child.
On the homefront, the Community Service Award was bestowed upon beloved entertainer and local resident Lorna Luft, and volunteer and donor extraordinaire Julian DiCiurcio was given the Partners for Life Award. Rancho Mirage’s own Annette Bloch was honored with the 100 Women Award. Some who attended the gala in 2012 may remember that Bloch wowed the crowd with her surprise gift of a cool one million dollars to establish the Cancer Care Center that bears her name at Desert AIDS Project. That facility had its ribbon-cutting ceremony late last year.
Not that the evening was devoid of stars shining brightly. The event was hosted by funny boy Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family,” and musical guests included Melissa Etheridge, Broadway star Stephanie J. Block, Oscar-nominee Queen Latifah, “Glee” heartthrob Matthew Morrison, and Megan Hilty of “Smash.” These incredible voices—and I’m now talking about both the singers AND the honorees—regaled the more than 1500 men and women (young and old, straight and gay) in the audience. And most importantly, together, we all helped raised a whopping 1.375 million dollars for the organization. And every penny stays right here in this Valley to help those most in need. So next year, be there…or be very square!