A passion for purrs and pups—and other groovy pets—converged with an appreciation for rock’ n’ roll in a noteworthy fundraiser for Amy’s Purpose.

The relatively new nonprofit organization hopes to raise the level of awareness on a significant veterinary care services crisis in Greater Palm Springs with its recent event at the Annenberg Theater.

It also aims to let people know more about its valiant mission, which is two-fold.

By 2023, Amy’s Purpose hopes to train and put more veterinary workers in desert offices. Another focus is the organization’s dedication to pet safety and predator awareness. To that end, it offers community-based education programs and local student scholarships for the College of the Desert/PaCE veterinarian assistance program to ease the current emergency pet-care crisis in the high and low desert.

Pet loss grief counseling also filters into the mix.

“Most people may not realize how extreme the crisis in veterinary care is here,” says event producer and Amy’s Purpose board member Bruce Fessier. “We’ve stumbled upon a pathway to improve veterinary services and make it self-sustaining.”

That pathway is inventive.

Noting the rise in people quitting their vet jobs because they didn’t want exposure to COVID-19, and the rising demand for vet services, Fessier and other noble souls affiliated with the cause searched for Southern California colleges that provided courses and certifications for vet students. College of the Desert/PaCE’s veterinarian assistance program stood out.

“They teach people how to be a veterinary assistant,” Fessier notes. “That includes what they call an externship, where they actually place the students who’ve completed about seven months of remote learning in jobs and clinics with veterinarians. It seemed like a great way to get more people to staff some of the clinics around here.”

The challenge, in Fessier’s eyes, was that the education costs hovered around $3,200.

“I thought, if we can use our benefit concert to pay for scholarships for this class, we can entice more people to take it and work for Coachella Valley vets,” he says.

Recently Amy’s Purpose received a Community Impact Fund grant from IECF. Fessier says the funding helped the organization find a stellar venue to produce the fundraiser.

A pre-concert reception began at 6:45 p.m. in the Atrium among the art galleries on the main floor of the Palm Springs Art Museum. The 8 p.m. concert in the Annenberg Theater featured John Garcia and his Band of Gold performing a mostly acoustic set of Kyuss classics and some originals.

Garcia, a founding voice of the Valley’s revered desert rock scene, has performed at music festivals around the world, from Coachella to OzzFest. Garcia, who, along with his wife, Wendy, are also veterinary technicians, also supervises the veterinary technician staff at the Palm Springs Animal Hospital. He says many veterinarians and veterinary hospitals are not accepting new patients.

“We are all overwhelmed by the demand for our services,” he says. “We must do something to relieve the pressure on veterinarians and put more veterinary assistants in the field to care for people’s pets and help our veterinarians.”

Other talent at the fundraiser included Billy Steinberg, crooning memorable hits from his Songwriters Hall of Fame catalog, along with vocalist Angie Rodriguez.

Garcia and Bruce Fessier presented a short Q&A between sets. Attendees enjoyed wine, light hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and a special presentation of the first Amy Award to Lori Weiner, owner of the Pet Hotel at Barkingham Palace in Palm Desert. Weiner is also the founder of the California Paws Rescue adoption service.

“If we can get more veterinary assistants we’re providing tuitions for into a job, that will be one big step to improving the local situation,” Fessier says.

For more information on Amy’s Purpose, visit amyspurpose.net.

This article originally appeared in the Desert Sun, September 2022.

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