Frontdoors Magazine May/June 2021

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Miss Effervescent Looking back with philanthropist Billie Jo Herberger as she rides the waves of a remarkable life


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Julie Coleman Shoshana Leon Judy Pearson McKenna Wesley



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Thank You


TABLE OF CONTENTS {may/june 2021, volume 19, issue 4}

WHAT YOU’RE SAYING....... 08 Reader feedback EDITOR’S NOTE...................... 09 Spring in Two Acts 10 QUESTIONS WITH.......... 10 Sybil Francis, president & CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona BOOKMARKED....................... 13 Casey Strunk, 2020-2021 Executive Council Charities board chair OFFICE DOORS...................... 14 Christina Spicer, deputy director of Girl Scouts— Arizona Cactus-Pine Council KEY TO THE GOOD LIFE..... 18 Destination: Strawberry, AZ



A 2ND ACT.................................. 23 Jamie Heckerman helps Special Olympics athletes felt seen COVER STORY........................ 26 Miss Effervescent NEXT DOORS.......................... 39 TGen leads Arizona’s COVID-19 response while pressing forward with research STYLE UNLOCKED............... 42 Risa Kostis curates kits for life’s little emergencies CHARITY SPOTLIGHT......... 47 DreamCatchers CHEERS TO THE CHAIRS... 49 Colleen Chester, Sarah Frey, Courtney Gaintner & Kelly Vasbinder and Ivy Ciolli & Tracy Katz KITCHEN DOORS.................. 50 Let’s Eat! OPEN DOORS......................... 55 It’s Summer?!


for the Future of Arizona

+ Childhelp + DreamCatchers + Executive

Council Charities Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council + Herberger Theater Center + Girl


(People Acting Now Discover Answers) + Special Olympics Arizona + Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

WHAT YOU’RE SAYING {reader feedback}

Piper Fel lowsh ip [pie-per-fel-oh-ship]


1. An opportunity for nonprofit leaders to reach, retool, and revitalize. 2. A Piper Fellowship can be transformational for both the leader and the nonprofit organization. Sentence: “It gave me perspective; my Piper Fellowship was life-changing.”

“Frontdoors has been a bright spot during the pandemic. Thank you for focusing on news that uplifts our community.” — KRISTIN ATWELL FORD

“ Bill Shover (featured in the February 2021 issue) has impacted my family for three generations. As a young man moving to the Valley, he was welcomed by my grandfather, James E. Patrick, Sr. Later, he would work alongside my father, James E. Patrick II in community service. I have been fortunate to continue that journey. Bill’s wisdom, wit, insight and spirit made all our lives better.” — JULIA PATRICK

“Just wanted you to know I thought this was your best edition ever!” — JULIE MOORE

Learn more at © 2021 Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

Send Your Comments To:

EDITOR’S NOTE {on the job}





t’s March 11, and I’m volunteering at the Chandler-Gilbert Community College COVID-19 vaccination site. I’m working with a fellow volunteer, Bob, an animator, registering people there to receive their shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Together, the other volunteers and I checked in more than 2,000 people that day — and were they ever pumped! I chatted happily with cars filled with cowboys and Cowboys fans, a delightful couple from Quebec, an Irishman who struggles with COPD. Bob and I registered folks ranging in age from 16 to 101. It felt terrific to interact with so many people happy and excited to be vaccinated. Plus, we saw So Many DOGS. When it comes to a shot in the arm, it seems man’s best friend is the best thing to ease the pain and calm jangled nerves. During my 12-hour shift, I received my first dose of the vaccine. By any estimation, it was a remarkable day in a difficult year.




t’s weeks later, and I’m sitting on the patio at Billie Jo and Judd Herberger’s penthouse, overlooking Scottsdale’s canals. The weather is glorious and a few members of the Frontdoors team are there with me being regaled with stories from the Herbergers’ pasts as I interview Billie Jo for this month’s cover story. As we sat in the open air sipping white wine on ice — a house favorite — we heard memories of Judd’s growing up just down the street and naming the mountains around us after his pets. “I used to hike them. I would take a flat rock and put ‘Flopsy Mountain’ and the date on it. I’m sure all of those rocks are gone,” he said. It was an easy-breezy night, filled with laughter and connection of a kind I haven’t had much of over the last year. And as we close out our season — one that’s brought challenges and loss but also reflection and renewal — I hope that act one sets the stage for a whole lot more of act two.

Karen Werner | EDITOR




10 QUESTIONS {fascinating people}


President & CEO of The Center for the Future of Arizona


Why was The Center for the Future of Arizona founded?

CFA was born from a love for Arizona and a desire to help our state succeed. It all started in 2002, when Lattie Coor, outgoing president of Arizona State University, and I met to discuss how to build on his idea to create an organization that could help drive Arizona forward and make a lasting difference for all Arizonans. With Lattie’s background in education and my passion and experience as a public policy specialist, we built CFA, a selfproclaimed “do tank” that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state.


What are some of the Center’s biggest priorities?

CFA’s vision is to achieve The Arizona We Want, where all Arizonans, now and in the future, thrive and enjoy sustained prosperity, unmatched quality of life and real opportunity. We listen to Arizonans to learn what matters most to them, share trusted data about how Arizona is doing in those priority areas, bring critical issues to public attention, and work with communities and leaders to solve public problems. Together with our partners, we advance major statewide initiatives to transform education, workforce and civic engagement.


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The Center recently released The Arizona We Want: The Decade Ahead report. What do the findings tell us about Arizonans?

The voices of Arizonans, and what they want, matter. The report results are based on our unique partnership with Gallup and a comprehensive statewide survey of Arizonans across Arizona’s vast geography and great diversity. What we found is that as Arizonans, we agree on much more than we disagree and that we want the same things, including a strong education system, quality, affordable healthcare, sustainable practices that protect our quality of life, and equity for all people.


What can everyday Arizonans do to help effect change?

The first step is to fully embrace and realize that we are in this together and we want the same things. The data from the Gallup findings show that Arizonans agree on 42 specific actions to take to make our state better. CFA has already heard from many leaders, community organizations and everyday Arizonans who are sharing the findings from the report, and will use them to inform decision-making and collaborate with others to address our greatest needs. You can learn about more ways to get started on our website.




Arizonans are willing to work with others of different viewpoints to solve problems. Leaders in every sector and in communities across the state have an important role to play in doing just that. Our Gallup findings provide a framework for community discussion on what brings us together and where we have opportunity to improve. As Arizonans, we can come together with the knowledge that we agree on much more than we disagree and recognize that the national narrative around division and polarization is not reflective of reality, at least not in Arizona.

How has COVID-19 affected your work?

This has been a challenging time for all Arizonans, and at CFA, we are committed to our work in the new normal and to staying true to our mission of bringing Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state. We have advanced our mission on all fronts, including our work with Gallup and with our partners in education, workforce and civic engagement. The voices of Arizonans matter now more than ever and we are working to help those voices be heard.

What have you done during this time of change, both for yourself and as a leader?

I am very proud of our CFA team and grateful to them for their hard work this past year. Like everyone in our state — and in our country — our staff have experienced losses and stresses caused by the pandemic. We have worked harder than ever to advance our mission. In some ways, this has been one of our most impactful years, thanks to our dedicated staff. At the same time, as a leader, I know that it is important to recognize the stresses everyone is experiencing and find ways to help our staff recharge. I think we have been able to do that successfully.


When you talk to people outside of the state, what do you tell them Arizona has going for it?

I tell them what Arizonans tell us. Arizonans are proud to call this state home. They love and appreciate the state’s natural beauty and stunning landscape. Our rich culture and heritage combined with our independent spirit and innovative thinking give a feeling of openness and possibility. These are just a few of the reasons why our state is experiencing one of the country’s highest growth rates.


What do you see as the single most significant opportunity for Arizona in the coming year?


What would Frontdoors readers be surprised to learn about you?

I was raised by a French mother in a bilingual family and spent all my summers growing up living with my French grandparents just outside of Paris. I play the flute, and in some professional circles, am known as an expert in nuclear weapons history and became that in the course of earning my Ph.D. in political science from MIT. I majored in chemistry at Oberlin College, am a bit of a science geek and am passionate about doing my part to make the world — and Arizona — a better place for all. I love movies and hiking with my husband Michael, and doing anything with my daughter Alana.

To learn more about The Center for the Future of Arizona, go to A strong education system that supports the success of every child is key to Arizona’s future. Here, Phoenix Union High School District students meet with district staff to share ideas.

And what are some challenges we should be focused on?

We have come a long way, but we still have work to do. Our report findings spotlight challenges where significant disparities exist and where there are opportunities to ensure more Arizonans have a place in Arizona’s success. The data prompts us to take a deeper look into the underlying conditions that create inequities across the board and to ask how we can support greater opportunity and quality of life for everyone. Certainly, our healthcare and K12 systems have been under stress, and the safety and well-being of frontline workers are top of mind, as well as issues around criminal justice and voting processes.


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Take a culinary journey

602.349.1208 Ask about our program to aid local charities.

BOOKMARKED {what are you reading?}

CASEY STRUNK 2020-2021 board chair for Executive Council Charities and president of the Strunk Insurance Group


“Lead … for God’s Sake” by Todd G. Gongwer

H I S TA K E “If you are like me, you have a stack of books on your nightstand that someone said you MUST read. These books are about leadership, business building, motivational techniques, sales and more. It can be daunting to try to digest and implement all the guidance out there for business owners today. “‘Lead … for God’s Sake’ is a fiction-based book that centers around a high school basketball coach, a janitor and a CEO. The story draws you in and the message could not be clearer. Too often, we are focused on the idea of success and whatever that means in our own life. This book attempts to remind us of our greater purpose. “Think about some of the most outstanding leaders in history: Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. If you asked any of them why they did what they did, they would have been able to answer you in a heartbeat. “They were all passionately focused on the interests of others, not on themselves. Interestingly, in each of their cases, there was a central focus on a relationship with their Creator, too.” FRONTDOORS MEDIA

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OFFICE DOORS {valley changemakers}

A DAY WITH CHRISTINA SPICER Deputy director of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council As told to | Julie Coleman


I am an early riser and love mornings as that is my space and time. I have three friends I walk with some mornings as I have found it is a great way during these times to focus on friendship and fill the “love cup” while still being socially distant. When I get home, I set everything up on our dining room table as it turns into preschool for my son, who is being homeschooled, and then get our daughter ready for school as well. At 8 a.m., I transition from the space of caretaking and mom into starting my workday.

8:30 a.m. >> A CENTURY-OLD SPECIAL RECIPE Every morning, I have a conversation with my partner in crime and fellow deputy director, Mary Mitchell. One of the unique reasons our council has thrived during the pandemic is because we practice shared leadership all the way down to the troop level. Part of strong feminine leadership is the ability to have a larger capacity of shared leadership. Mary and I have two distinct jobs yet have equal authority, and


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we have each other. This gives us an opportunity for friendship, mentorship and real care and love for each other and the organization. Regardless of how long you had been in your career, everybody was a rookie and learning when the pandemic hit. We needed each other to be in shared leadership and decision-making so we could best serve our membership. Girl Scouts has been around for 109 years. Throughout that time, women got the right to vote, and we have seen multiple wars and experienced depression. We as an organization have seen a lot and thrived, so when the pandemic hit, our leaders and our girls did what Girl Scouts always do, which is to go into action and respond to the unknown. The secret ingredients to our success as an organization are shared leadership, our volunteers, and the fact that we are a learning organization. We believe in the idea of “put it out there, learn from it and reflect on it.” It is OK to take a risk because you’re learning. We also want to teach our girls the same concept of taking healthy risks and having courage, confidence and character.

11 a.m. >> EQUITY IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT We are coming out of a successful cookie season and I’m proud of our team because it was a really tough year. Our goal was to sell 2.1 million packages of cookies. We fell 11,000 packages short, but consider it an amazing year for not having access to booths the way we typically do. It was a year of figuring out how to unlock invention and creativity on a day-to-day basis in this Zoom space, when this used to happen in different places, such as someone’s office, where you would start drawing on a whiteboard. One of the roles I get to play is helping coordinate synergies between the different teams throughout the organization, such as the fund development and cookie teams working together to allow the community to work with the girls and the girls to work with the community. Part of our story and why the cookie program continues to be so successful is the existence of an even playing field for everybody. Half of our membership lives at or below the self-sufficiency annual income, which is $68,000 for a family of four or more. There is a view that if you have more affluence, you are going to sell more cookies. But that’s not what we see in the data. The data show us that girls who come from families with fewer resources sell more cookies than girls who come from families with affluence. The cookie program creates equity, because for every $5 box of cookies, $1 goes to the bakery, 90 cents support the troop and $3.10 comes to the council to support the girl. The girl has the reward card for her sales, and there are things on that reward card a family would never be able to do otherwise. This year, $1.8 million is going back into our troops to make decisions about how to use those resources. And what we know about our girls is that they put the money back into themselves, the troops and into their communities. We need to ensure that every girl has an opportunity to try on passion and get to see themselves. And I think that’s the job.

During the last year, Girl Scout Cookie Bosses got creative to provide safe and even contactless cookie sales for customers. Meanwhile, Junior Emma joined an online campfire from her backyard treehouse in 2020.

2:15 p.m. >> PLANNING FOR HAPPY CAMPERS The program side of Girl Scouts will be fun to watch, because I don’t think the virtual space is going anywhere. My day is spent figuring out how we open in-person space, support our troops in delivering programs and what the virtual component will look like moving forward. Camp is fast approaching, and we are in the process of opening all four camp properties at 50 percent capacity this year, ensuring our staff is safe and parents know this will be a safe and fun experience for their girl. Our camp at South Mountain will be a day camp and the other three in Prescott and Payson will be residential camps. continued >>>

Fellow GSACPC deputy director Mary Mitchell and Spicer on one of the many Zoom meetings they have shared during the pandemic.


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“The secret ingredients to our success as an organization are shared leadership, our volunteers, and the fact that we are a learning organization.”


Everything kind of shuts down and we try to focus on the kiddos and the family. We eat dinner and play, and then the kids go to bed around 8:30 p.m. I’m usually back online doing work I couldn’t do earlier because I was in Zoom meetings. One of the unique things that happened for me during COVID is that I went from being a working mom to a mom who works. That switch has been powerful for me and created a sense of connection to family that I haven’t had in so many ways because you were able to waffle your life a little bit and everything had its nice little container. Now everything is very spaghetti; everybody knows each other’s kids and pets. It’s hard to hide anything! To learn more, go to

Following the 2020 cookie season, COVID-19 impacted many of the service projects and reward plans girls had. This was an excellent opportunity for Girl Scouts to practice problem-solving and adapting.


NonProfit Tip of the Month “ It is not just the usual suspects who can invest substantially in your worthy cause.” Steward all of your supporters. Find out about their lives, families, interests and passions. Call them to say hello, to see how they are doing, to tell them how their gifts are being put to good use. Make everyone feel important. Don’t leave messages, send emails or texts — wait until you can talk to them. In the midst of our hectic lives, spend a disciplined 30 minutes each day talking to donors who might really appreciate hearing from you. It will pay off handsomely. Just do it.

Christine Ewing, CFRE, Ewing Consulting LLC MAY/JUNE 2021

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KEY TO THE GOOD LIFE {what’s trending}




Over Easter weekend, the Missus and I loaded up the family truckster and set out on our first vacation in quite some time. We’d been invited to explore one of the rare remaining hidden gems in Arizona — the Pine-Strawberry area on the Mogollon Rim. This is an area that is just starting to emerge as its own tourism destination. Located about 20 minutes north of Payson, the communities provide a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of city life — while featuring amenities you’d expect from a true travel destination.

THE LOCATION Pine and Strawberry are effectively twin communities, separated by only 2 miles and located on Highway 260, an easy 90-minute drive from the East Valley. Pine is the bigger of the two and has most of the infrastructure — a modest grocery store, post office and a broad variety of antique and curio shops. Strawberry is essentially fully residential except for one pocket in the middle of the community that hosts some shops and restaurants, and importantly …


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THE STRAWBERRY INN Our home for our three-day adventure was this fully restored and completely modernized property in the heart of Strawberry. The Strawberry Inn sprawls over three properties — the main lodge with traditional guest rooms, and upper and lower properties that feature cottages and a few Airstreams. We stayed in Cottage #2, a two-bedroom setup with exceptional finishes, a kitchenette, full bathroom, front porch and a yard overlooking Strawberry Creek. The cottage was smallish but efficiently designed; the kids had bunk beds while the Missus and I enjoyed a comfy queen-sized bed.



THE FOOD We didn’t have time to hit every restaurant in town, but we did hit four that we thought were noteworthy. This could be its own column, but I’ll make it quick:

OLD COUNTRY INN: This restaurant in

Antique shops, homemade fudge, handmade honey and ice cream shops — the Pine-Strawberry area boasts lots of treats, including the remodeled Strawberry Inn (top).

The Inn itself is beautifully restored, and each portion of the property features stunning public areas with lounge seating, fire pits, picnic areas and games. It was an excellent location for a weekend getaway but would also be ideal for a group gathering, thanks to the ample communal facilities. The Inn isn’t an inn in the traditional sense — there’s no restaurant, although there is an exceptional coffee shop in a cute windmill structure out front. It’s run more like a vacation rental, with no central office and everything transacted in a touchless manner. Each room has a secure keypad for entrance rather than an old-school key. And you don’t miss having an on-site restaurant — four restaurants are within easy walking distance, and numerous others are a short drive away in Pine.

Pine features delicious wood-fired pizzas, craft beers and a charming indoor-outdoor environment. It also has a cozy side bar that featured a guitarist performing the evening we were there.

PIEBAR: Perhaps our favorite experience

of the trip. It’s like a bar, but for pie. Housed in an audacious little building right off the main road in Strawberry, PIEbar features a broad variety of sweet and savory mini-pies, baked kind of like an empanada. Combine that with its own variety of craft beers and you get a really unique, approachable place to eat.

THAT BREWERY: Greater Pine-Strawberry

area residents have an appreciation for good beer, and THAT Brewery is probably the epicenter for barley and hops in the area. It also provided our son with the opportunity to try an elk burger for the first time, which he enjoyed immensely.

THE RANDALL HOUSE: This breakfast

and brunch location in a historic home on the main drag in Pine was the healthiest of the places we visited. It serves a delicious menu of traditional and heart-conscious morning staples. WARNING: It’s also a toy store, so if you’re bringing young kids, be prepared.


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Rim Country is brimming with fun things to do, including natural attractions such as Tonto Natural Bridge, located outside Payson, which offers several hikes that lead to picturesque settings such as waterfalls and rock formations.

Obviously, the Mogollon Rim itself contains myriad opportunities for outdoor recreation, but the forest roads were closed the weekend we were there. Friends of ours happened to visit the Fossil Creek Wilderness Area the same day we were at Tonto Bridge and raved about the natural waterfall and clear waters the creek provided. Tom Evans | CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

THE GREAT OUTDOORS The entire point of going to the Rim is to enjoy nature, and the options for doing so are almost limitless. At approximately 5,800 feet of elevation, Strawberry is about 20 degrees cooler than the Valley at any given moment, and its location in the heart of Rim Country provides a stunning natural environment. We had to narrow it down a bit, so our big outdoor adventure was Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. As the name implies, the park features a remarkable natural bridge that rises about 200 feet above the creek floor below it, with a cascading waterfall dropping a light mist on the bottom. There are several striking viewpoints of the bridge on top that are easily accessible, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can take the Gowan Trail for about a quarter-mile hike that drops you 200 feet to a new observation deck in the creek bottom. It’s steep, but not Piestewa or Camelback steep, and my kids were easily up for the challenge.


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BOTTOM LINE Strawberry and Pine are still sleepy, and that’s a good thing. If you’re looking for an opportunity to commune with nature and get out of the heat without the hassle of heading to Flagstaff or the White Mountains, the two communities are a great option where you can experience an ideal blend of the rustic and the modern.

25TH Anniversary Celebration Performance JUNE 3, 2021, 7:00 PM | LIVESTREAM EVENT Academics Music Dance Theatre

Join us, as our creative scholars present a year-end performing arts showcase that will inspire and remind us that the arts gain meaning when they are both shared and witnessed. RESERVE TICKETS | SPONSOR | DONATE

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The Phoenix Women's Board of the Steele Children's Research Center PANDA is proud to congratulate Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan on 25 years of service to Arizona and announce the Fayez K. Ghishan MD, PANDA Endowed Directorship to ensure the future of research, programs and initiatives to improve children’s health at the Steele Children’s Research Center.

Learn more about PANDA and our dedication to funding pediatric medical research in Arizona at

Jamie Heckerman celebrates the groundbreaking of the Special Olympics Arizona building with then-board chair Doug Steele and SOAZ staff member Isaac Sanft.

A 2ND ACT {helping is healing}

ABILITIES, NOT DISABILITIES Jamie Heckerman helps Special Olympics athletes felt seen

Judy Pearson | Contributing Writer


ursuing a life of good works from a wheelchair is an inspiring second act. Creating a second second act from a wheelchair is above and beyond. But then, Jamie Heckerman is an above-andbeyond kind of woman. She was born with spina bifida, a rare birth defect affecting the development of the spine. Her first surgery took place when she was three days old, but her condition was not reversible. She became a wheelchair basketball standout in high school, earning a shot at three scholarships from the University of Illinois, the University of Alabama and the University of Arizona. Sunshine called to this Iowa girl, and Arizona benefited from it.

With a goal of a career in wheelchair athletics, Heckerman used her downtime from studies to volunteer for Special Olympics Arizona (SOAZ). She was paired with a bowling league and tasked with collecting money and ensuring the athletes got to the right lanes. She had never had experience with this population before and it was love at first sight. “I can’t describe the feeling of being seen for your abilities rather than disabilities,” Heckerman said. “That was the case for me, playing basketball from my wheelchair. And it was true of the Special Olympics athletes, too.”


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As president and CEO of SOAZ, Heckerman serves the 25,000 athletes and 23,000 Special Olympics volunteers in Arizona.

That realization led Heckerman down an entirely new path and that second second act: Arizona State University. She and her husband moved to Phoenix so she could pursue a degree in therapeutic recreation through ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development. She continued volunteering with Special Olympics in the Valley, and when a staff position opened in Peoria, Heckerman was on board. Next came a job in operations and quality control, followed by the muchdeserved appointment to president and CEO in 2018. “We host over 400 events a year, including our school programs, fundraising and statewide competitions,” Heckerman said. “Our youngest athletes are 2 year olds, and our oldest is 87, a bocce ball aficionado.” While the organization has six offices statewide, with a paid staff person at each, SOAZ wouldn’t exist if not for a dedicated army of volunteers. They help with communication, take athletes to practices and competitions, help run competitions, and serve meals at them. “We also have medical clinicians who volunteer their time,” Heckerman said. “Many of our athletes become anxious at medical screenings, so we roll those into our


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events. Dental exams, eye and ear testing, inoculations — we take the clinicians out of the white coats and make them a part of the fun atmosphere.” As has been the case for many of the state’s nonprofits, the past year has hit SOAZ hard. Funding priorities have changed for individuals and grantmakers, shifting to organizations that provide immediate needs. That doesn’t include SOAZ. And their primary fundraising avenue has been curtailed. “No one does a better job of telling the Special Olympics story than the athletes themselves,” Heckerman said. “This population has become so isolated. They can’t go to jobs as they have a higher risk of getting COVID. We’re looking forward to getting athletes vaccinated and back out in person, where they can share the impact that SOAZ has had on their lives. It’s not just sports.” In the meantime, Heckerman and her crew have done a wonderful job of pivoting. SOAZconnected gives participants new ways to engage in four areas: health and fitness, arts, social and Esports. All of the classes are presented live through their website. “At a recent staff meeting, Amber, a health intern, drove home the importance of these virtual programs,”

“No one does a better job of telling the Special Olympics story than the athletes themselves.”

Heckerman said. “Amber had moved here just before COVID hit. She didn’t know anyone and told us without SOAZconnected, she couldn’t imagine where she’d be.” The Unified Champion Schools program engages schools in creating climates of inclusion, acceptance, respect and human dignity for all students with and without intellectual disabilities. Pairing SOAZ athletes and students without disabilities gives them all a chance to grow in myriad ways. Now, in this unprecedented time, it’s even more critical, providing the tools and resilience to raise schools to new levels of social connection and inclusion for all students. What will this woman with multiple second acts do next? Heckerman makes no predictions. But it’s clear that the thousands of athletes and volunteers in her care will always benefit from Special Olympics’ founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision: “To improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities everywhere, and transform the lives of everyone they touch — building a better, more accepting world for all of us.” To learn more, go to

Heckerman enjoys the Tip-a-Cop fundraising event for SOAZ with athlete Jenn Staflin and Avondale Police Chief Dale Nannenga.



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COVER STORY {by karen werner}

Miss Efferves MAY/JUNE 2021

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Looking back with philanthropist Billie Jo Herberger as she rides the waves of a remarkable life


er coquettish voice and milliondollar smile are magnetic, making everyone feel like friends. Billie Jo Herberger has had these gifts since childhood, growing up one of five well-heeled daughters of a Pasadena dentist. It was a sunny, happy upbringing, spent between a Balboa Island beach house and a house on Maui. Billie Jo could surf before she could drive. “I was an early little beach girl,” she said. “Southern California was a dream for me.” Dubbed “Miss Effervescent” in high school, Billie Jo was always a bon vivant. “I was the most popular girl and wanted everybody over,” she said. “When I was able to drive, I would stop and pick up snacks so that I could entertain my friends. I became that girl really early on.”

Billie Jo and Judd Herberger enjoy a cheerful life in a Scottsdale penthouse filled with art and mementos, including this painting of the pair surfing.


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From her teenage days surfing the California waves to her turns as P.E. teacher, cultural ambassador, exercise visionary, cancer survivor, arts patron and beloved wife, Billie Jo has fought doggedly for her happy life, and she isn’t shy about letting the world know it.

Her father noticed her flair and picked her as the one to follow his path as a dentist. He trained her as his assistant with the expectation that she would go to dental school. Instead, Billie Jo decamped to Flagstaff’s Arizona State College, a school she knew nothing about other than that a friend was attending. “I loved my dad, and I loved my time in his office, but I knew dental school was not the right thing for me. That’s how I ended up in Arizona,” she said. “It was called Arizona State College and while I was there, it became Northern Arizona University. I absolutely loved it.” At NAU, Billie Jo majored in health and physical education. She took dance and movement classes as well as sports and music. “I couldn’t have made a better decision,” she said. With diploma in hand, she snagged a job as head of physical education at the Judson School, an exclusive boarding school in Paradise Valley. It was 1969, and the students lapped up her larger-thanlife personality and new programs in polarity yoga, tai chi and ballet. After eight years, Billie Jo left the school, thanks to a former Judson School student who was staying at Elizabeth Arden’s Maine Chance, the pioneering destination spa once located at the southeastern base of Camelback Mountain. “She invited me to lunch and I saw this oasis in the desert,” Billie Jo said. “I went to the office and


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said, ‘Hi, I’m Billie Jo, and I’m inquiring about an exercise position. I’ve never taught an exercise class in my life, but I’m a P.E. teacher and have a dance background,’” she said. A few months later, Billie Jo’s phone rang. Maine Chance offered her a job that October, when the resort opened for the season. She was an immediate hit with guests who loved her sparkling personality and effective workouts. Unfortunately, after just two months, Billie Jo was diagnosed with malignant melanoma that required surgery. But a funny thing happened when she returned to the resort post-op. She became an inspiration. Not one to hide under longs sleeves, Billie Jo wore the scars on her right shoulder as badges of courage. With her positive attitude and steely resolve, she became a role model for women like second lady Happy Rockefeller, who came to meet Billie Jo when Happy was fighting breast cancer. Billie Jo went on to become head of the exercise department at Maine Chance and stayed for 17 years, until the spa closed in the early 90s. In that time, she also overcame cervical and breast cancers, maintaining her optimistic outlook and burnishing her reputation as an icon. “I stood up for myself and I helped thousands of women,” Billie Jo said. During that time, she also created a waterbased workout program and a line of records, cassettes, books and videos that she would parlay into an international business. “I had a student at Judson School from Hawaii. When she graduated, she fell in love with a Japanese surfer boy. She married him, moved to Japan and wrote to say she was going to have a baby,” Billie Jo said. “I had just published my water exercise book, so I sent it to her and said, ‘Betty, this would be a great type of exercise for you to do while you’re pregnant.’”

“ There are no pretenses. Billie Jo as you see her is Billie Jo as she is. Always been that way,” said Judd Herberger (below), about his wife, shown at her and Judd’s induction into the Herberger Performing Arts & Broadcast Hall of Fame (bottom right) and in one of the exercise videos in the “Billie Jo Alive” series.


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As luck would have it, Betty’s surfer-boy husband owned a string of surf shops in Japan and asked if Billie Jo would come to the country on a promotional tour. Once again, she was a sensation. “All these Japanese exercise instructors were seeing this American, Billie Jo, with frizzy hair. They fell in love with me,” she said. Billie Jo also got involved with Japan’s cancer society to help reduce cancer’s stigma in a country where women often hid a diagnosis. “Here I am with this arm, with these boobs cut off. I became a cancer inspiration,” she said. Over the next 15 years, Billie Jo’s Wet & Wonderful water-exercise program spread throughout luxury hotels and spas across Japan. Billie Jo appeared in Japanese media, trained fitness instructors across the country, and even designed a modest-swimwear line for Japanese women. Though she makes it all look effortless, Billie Jo reveals the hard work and determination behind her life’s path. “I was a fabulous businesswoman and I made a fabulous life for myself,” she said. “I’ve overcome a million things, and I’m prepared to continue to overcome anything because I love a fabulous life.”

Before there were influencers, Billie Jo built an international business on her personality and exercise prowess. Over the years, her products included records, cassettes, books, videos, and Billie Jo’s Wet & Wonderful water exercise program.


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Among the many who recognized the power in Billie Jo’s joie de vivre was Valley philanthropist Kathryn “Kax” Herberger, a friend for years, who introduced her to her son, Judd. The two hit it off, got married and became the exuberant duo that hosts parties, attends cultural events and makes the Valley’s arts scene all the more vibrant. Both were married previously, so they melded their lives and families into one when they wed. And, now, often sporting colorful, complementary ensembles, they’re in love and always seem to have more fun than anybody else. “When it became Judd and Billie Jo, it was the right thing for both of us. Totally perfect. We’re like this easy, happy pair,” she said, noting how well she fit into the Kierland-Herberger family. “Judd’s parents were fabulous people and an inspiration.” Bob and Kax Herberger were lifelong philanthropists whose giving was unparalleled in our community. They donated land for 31 parks around the Valley and endowed the Herberger Theater, the Salvation Army Herberger Center and the Valley Presbyterian Church, among many other gifts. Giving is a passion for Billie Jo and Judd, too, particularly to arts and cultural organizations. Their financial support benefits Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Theatre Company, Arizona Opera, Ballet Arizona, The Phoenix Symphony, and Scottsdale Arts, among other organizations. The couple also favors organizations that introduce art to children, such as Valley Youth Theatre, Rosie’s House, Kids in Focus, Act One and Childsplay. “If I show you my list, it’s long,” Billie Jo said, noting that she and Judd give a modest amount to some organizations and more to others, with the primary recipient being Herberger Theater Center, because it is home to six resident organizations. Smart, playful, funny, Billie Jo has missed going to cultural events and seeing her wide social circle over the past year. But she found a powerful new way to stay engaged with the arts. About

“ I’ve overcome a million things, and I’m prepared to continue to overcome anything because I love a fabulous life.”

Billie Jo with friends and fellow arts supporters Gary Jackson and Oscar De las salas at the 2019 VYTal Affair benefiting Valley Youth Theatre.

twice a week, she would host a dinner for a couple of people who worked in the organizations she and Judd support to hear about their work. “It was interesting,” she said. “I had more insight into them than I normally do, because I used to just go and be entertained.” Plus, it was a fun cooking experience for her. When guests used to leave Maine Chance, they would write their favorite recipe on a card for Billie Jo. During the pandemic, Billie Jo started cooking from them again. “I have had a fun time experimenting in the kitchen,” she said. “Actually, I’ve had an enjoyable time doing things in the house, like cleaning out drawers and giving things to my grandkids. I like creating new little daily rituals with Judd, which were different than our old rituals. We’ve figured out how to make it happy.” The quest for happiness is her life’s leitmotif. From her teenage days surfing the California waves to her

turns as P.E. teacher, cultural ambassador, exercise visionary, cancer survivor, arts patron and beloved wife, Billie Jo has fought doggedly for her happy life, and she isn’t shy about letting the world know it. “I feel that I’m the happiest girl in the world. I have nothing else to accomplish. I have accomplished so much, and I’m so proud of myself,” she said. And so, in her signature pigtails — a hairstyle she once donned because it was easy and different, then embraced and made her thing — she remains ever effervescent, the most popular girl, with the lovely voice and the megawatt smile. “I’ve been a girl for a long time, since 1969, in this community, being recognizable because of my frizzy hair and wild clothes,” she said. “I’ve been an inspiration. And I like that wherever I go, people say, ‘Oh, it’s Billie Jo!’”


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A HOT HOUSING MARKET /// I recently sat down with one of Valley’s top real estate agents, Joe Tropple of Realty One Group in Tempe, to discuss the exploding real estate market.


BUBBLE LIKE WE SAW IN 2007? The leading statisticians agree that we are not on the verge of any sort of housing bubble collapse and instead have entered into a “Golden Age.” Home prices are on the rise at a staggering pace of 3% a month on average and they expect us to reach beyond 30% by year’s end. This rapid growth has some home buyers and sellers worried that it is happening too fast and make them think back to 2007 when the bottom fell out.


OUT OF THE MARKET? While it is true that some buyers are dropping out because prices are increasing so rapidly that they now can’t afford what they want, it is not nearly to the point where we are seeing it slow down the rate of appreciation. Buyers being outpaced is one way rising prices rebalance the market. However, experts agree that we still have some substantial price increases ahead of us.


THEIR NEXT HOME? It depends if you are upgrading to a bigger home or downsizing to a smaller home. If you are downsizing, you might want to wait to sell until the inventory increases closer to 20,000 homes. Remember, right now, we only have around 4,600 and would require closer to 30,000 homes before the market starts to soften. Until then, sellers looking to downsize should ride out the appreciation train as long as they can.

If you are moving to a bigger or more expensive house, you should probably act as soon as possible. As prices increase on your smaller home at a rate of 30% a year, so is the house you want to upgrade to.

SUMMER IS HERE, AND SO ARE THE EVENTS! It’s so exciting to see in-person events happening again. :: Valley of the Sun 20/30

VIVA event will take place May 7, 2021 @ Warehouse 215 :: Amanda Hope

Rainbow Angels Night of Hope Gala is coming on Sept. 18, 2021. :: The Leukemia Lymphoma

Society’s Man & Woman of the Year is in full swing. This year, I’m supporting Sara Mayer and her team Bee Positive.

KIESHA MCFADDEN 480.252.9365 16930 E. Palisades Blvd., Fountain Hills, AZ 85268

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NMLS #198458

Since 2018, Frontdoors Magazine has proudly presented the Society of Chairs event to celebrate philanthropy in our community. This special evening serves as a toast to the women, men and institutions that have worked and volunteered to positively impact our community, especially during these unprecedented times. Event proceeds benefit TGen via the official foundation of Frontdoors Media, The Sauce Foundation, in honor of our former editor and dear friend Mike Saucier, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2017. Not only has TGen continued to make significant progress in both the treatment and early detection of pancreatic cancer, their work on COVID-19 — from testing to tracking to advanced genomic studies — has also made them internationally recognized pandemic experts who regularly serve and advise international, national and local agencies.

Please join us in recognizing our award sponsors for 2021: (as of our print deadline)

Community Champion Sponsors Char & Alan Augenstein

Check for a Lump Volunteers Linda Herold

EC70 / Executive Council Charities The O’Connor Institute for American Democracy

Eide Bailly

Free Arts Board of Directors Diana & David Smith


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Geri Wright & Sean Daniels You are Community Champions for Arizona Theatre Company! With appreciation, Char & Alan Augenstein

Congratulations t o S a n dy B r u n e r !

Community Champion and volunteer extraordinaire. We are thankful for all that you do. Diana & David Smith

Society of Chairs 2O21 PARTNER DIRECTORY


{vendors with heart} Frontdoors Magazine is honored to share the list of vendors that supported the Society of Chairs event and our efforts to celebrate nonprofits across the Valley this season.















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Central & Northern Arizona

Doctors take care of patients. We take care of families. To learn more or to make a gift, visit

Helping nonprofits to build, change and sustain. Empowering leaders to diversify revenue, develop teams and thrive. Experience — Becky has served at the executive level in the three major sectors: corporate, association management and nonprofit. Leadership — Becky has revitalized struggling organizations with her deep expertise in succession planning, team development and capital campaigns. Wisdom — After being a bank president and the CEO of four nonprofits and a chamber of commerce, Becky knows what works, what doesn’t and how to tell the difference. Schedule a free 30-minute assessment to learn how Becky can help you or your organization. Go to:

NEXT DOORS {ahead of the curve}

“WE HAVE THE ABILITY; THEREFORE WE HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY” TGen leads Arizona’s COVID-19 response while pressing forward with research Tom Evans | Contributing Editor


ne year ago, I wrote a column about the work that the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) was doing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything was big and scary at the time. But here we are today, with hopefully some light at the end of the tunnel. So, I thought it would be a good time to check back in with TGen and see how the pandemic has unfolded from their perspective — but also how they’ve been able to continue to focus on other diseases and research as well. The first person I talked with was Dr. David Engelthaler, an associate professor at Northern Arizona University and the co-director of TGen’s Pathogen and Microbiome Division. I couldn’t help but think that for

Dr. David Engelthaler, co-director of TGen’s Pathogen and Microbiome Division


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For more than a year, TGen has contributed experience and expertise to the effort to fight COVID-19 alongside private, state and federal organizations.

someone like Engelthaler, the past year has been the equivalent of the Super Bowl of epidemiology. “That’s probably a good way to put it,” he said. “We had been purposefully building up this capacity to more effectively use this 21st-century technology in a public health setting so that we can track the normal pathogens we have, and we know we can do that. It was kind of a timing thing — we had the ability, and then the pandemic happened. There wasn’t any way we’re not going to jump in for the public good.” TGen started the pandemic with a focus on developing diagnostic testing, but as other labs gained widespread testing capabilities, the organization’s focus shifted.

TGen works to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases.


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“ We have the ability to use this technology to make a difference in the world, and we’re going to do it.”

“We knew that our mission needed to be a public health mission, so we focused our time and attention on providing services for the local and tribal health departments and those populations that don’t typically get tested for infectious diseases,” he said. “So not so much the hospitals, but the prisons, the shelters, the long-term care facilities, inpatient psychiatric facilities, tribes in rural Arizona — places that would need this resource, but typically wouldn’t have an infectious disease lab at their fingertips.” TGen also focused on the genomics of the virus and genetic sequencing, doing almost all of the work in this area over the first eight or nine months of the pandemic. As a result, they now understand the virus much better than a year ago. But there have been surprises along the way. “I think we understood that the first wave was the virus settling in and starting to hit the individuals that were most likely to share the virus with one another,”

Engelthaler said. “But by the time we came out of the summer surge, we were concerned there would be a winter surge … I don’t think we properly understood how quickly and easily this virus moves and how devastating the winter surge would be. “It goes to show that this is not going to be just a disease for people who are reckless. The vast majority of cases were people that wore masks and were trying to make sure they did not get infected. So it became difficult to predict how devastating this virus would be,” he said. Engelthaler is optimistic about the next few months and thinks we will reach the anticipated herd immunity needed to stop the virus’ spread sooner rather than later. “Most states are starting to see immunity not only from vaccines but also aided by all the previous cases,” he said. “Some states are having a tough time right now but they didn’t have a lot of cases before and were behind on getting the vaccines out. I don’t think we’ll see another major surge because we have so much built-up immunity in the community. It’s becoming harder and harder for the virus to find the next person.” In the meantime, TGen has continued to focus on other fronts. Dr. Jeffrey Trent, president and research director of TGen, said that some significant strides have been made in several different areas. For example, TGen recently announced that they have identified a gene that could help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a huge breakthrough that could change how the sixth most-deadly disease in America is treated. “What we know about this disease after decades of work is that there’s a plaque-forming protein called an Abeta that accumulates these plaques and tangles that are hallmarks of the disease,” Trent said. “The research that TGen did found there’s a gene called ABCC1 that not only helps take this Abeta out of the brain but also helps reduce the production of that Abeta. So it’s helpful in two different ways.” “What this really provides is another avenue of research into this elusive disorder, and to some extent, it’s the start of a journey, but you can imagine the focus of the world research community is picking up to take advantage of this information,” he said. Despite all of the successes, Trent said that the last year has been challenging for logistical reasons but also a drain on researchers who were already working long hours before the pandemic. However, he said the organization has been working past those issues to continue to make progress. In particular, TGen is doing amazing work in the early detection of cancers. It recently inked a partnership with

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, president and research director of TGen

Exact Sciences, one of the leading companies focused on tests that can help with early detection. They are working on a test that can detect colon cancer without a colonoscopy and a test to find out if cancer surgeries have left behind any residual cancer cells. “This is extraordinarily important for patients who are asking, ‘Did you get it all?’ after surgery,” Trent said. “We do know that if we can’t find anything in your blood, most patients live a lot longer.” TGen is also about to fill its newly-endowed chair in memory of the late Senator John McCain to study brain cancers. And they’re even helping veterinarians diagnose and treat cancer in dogs. “What’s interesting about dogs is that many of the cancers they get are rare in humans,” Trent said. “Bone cancer, for example. So if you can show value in treating those cancers, it can give you a pathway to treatment, especially in children.” Engelthaler summed up TGen’s approach nicely, by sharing a quote on the wall of the Northern Arizona facility. “We have the ability; therefore, we have the responsibility,” he said. “That’s been our mission for 10plus years. We have the ability to use this technology to make a difference in the world, and we’re going to do it.” To learn more, go to



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STYLE UNLOCKED {living fashionably}


Risa Kostis curates kits for life’s little emergencies

McKenna Wesley I Contributing Writer


recently spent the day with Risa Kostis, who is not only warm and beautiful, she is one smart woman. She’s an entrepreneur, author, stylist and philanthropist — she’s chairing the Valley Youth Theatre VYTal Affair-athon in August. Born in Maine, Risa grew up watching her mother sew, which led to a love of all things fashion. “I feel like I was infused with the fashion gene from the time I was born,” she said. “I used to lock my closet so my sisters wouldn’t steal my clothes and always experimented with bizarre styling techniques from about the age of 10.” After stints doing hair and makeup for brides, working for a handbag and shoe designer and being in-house public relations director at Prairie New York, she took what she considered her best skills and launched RISTYLE Consulting in 2014. Photos by Jillian Rivera Photography


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“ Fashion to me means celebrating yourself and your own vision, no matter the path or the trend,” said Risa Kostis, shown here, along with the Rescue Kits she created with her sister, Jess.


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Not long after, she and her sister Jess recognized a need and created The Rescue Kits. Now, mind you: This is not your average travel kit filled with breath mints, a comb and two Band-Aids. To begin, there are currently seven well-thought-out kits: two full-size and five micro kits, with more on the way. Risa and Jess have sourced, tested and cocreated their kits with purpose. Each is designed for a specific life moment and its possible problems. The first was the Bride Kit. “I’ve been working with brides for over two decades, so it was only natural that because of the importance and pressure the wedding day brings, that I would create something to make sure they felt taken care of, stress-free and in control on the biggest day of their lives,” Risa said. The kits were designed to give customers a “stand-in” stylist at their fingertips, for a fraction of what a stylist would charge. Each Rescue Kit is different, but they all help make the day better — and less stressful — with items like red wine stain removers, hairpin kits, necklace extenders, wrinkle remover spray, pre-threaded sewing needles and more. The kits are based on the professional styling kit that Kostis has customized over the past seven-plus years as a stylist.


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The kits were designed to give customers a ‘stand-in’ stylist at their fingertips, for a fraction of what a stylist would charge.

The Rescue Kits have been featured in publications like The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings and Brides Magazine, and Risa and Jess have big plans for expansion. Meanwhile, they are enjoying the ride as sisters and business partners. “I’m so grateful to have her by my side. It’s been the greatest gift to work alongside my best friend and biggest cheerleader,” Risa said. When she isn’t running her two businesses, Risa loves to give back to the community. “I’m humbled and honored to serve as the chair for this year’s Valley Youth Theatre VYTal Affair-athon,” she said. “Between RISTYLE, The Rescue Kit Company and my work with the very few charity organizations I contribute to, there’s not a lot of time to focus on much more.” Maybe there’s a Rescue Kit for that! To learn more, visit McKenna Wesley | CONTRIBUTING WRITER


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HERE FOR THE BRILLIANCE Shay, Ileana Makri & More

2446 E CAMELBACK ROAD | 602.955.8000


DREAMCATCHERS Big-hearted youths make final dreams come true By Karen Werner

ORIGIN: Caitlin Crommett founded DreamCatchers ORGANIZATION: DreamCatchers

LEADERSHIP: Founder: Caitlin Crommett

ANNUAL BUDGET: Approximately $90,000

when she was 15. She had been volunteering with a local hospice for three years and wanted to have a more tangible impact on patients’ lives. After noticing that many patients were rarely visited by family or friends — and even more rarely by young people — Crommett came up with the idea of giving them a chance to have their last dream granted. The idea came from the movie “Patch Adams,” specifically the scene where Dr. Patch fills a pool with spaghetti for an elderly woman who always dreamed of swimming in spaghetti. This sparked the idea of making last dreams come true for those nearing the end of their lives. Crommett started a club with this mission at her high school, some friends joined, and the concept spread to other schools. Since then, 55 chapters have sprung up in high schools and colleges nationwide, and the mission has evolved to emphasize intergenerational connection through dream fulfillment and other activities.


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Dream experiences not only benefit the Dreamer, they give young people the chance to interact with hospice patients, an interaction rarely experienced in today’s society.

VOLUNTEER WHO MAKES A DIFFERENCE: All of DreamCatchers’ student

chapters are volunteer-led, but one particularly notable student this year was Kristin Jung, a junior and president of the chapter at University High School in Tucson. Despite being in the busiest year of high school, Jung continued to run her club successfully, keeping members engaged throughout COVID and beyond. They fulfilled a Dream a month in her first year leading the club (which remains one of DreamCatchers’ top-performing chapters nationwide). To top it off, Jung volunteered as an operations intern with the organization on a national level at the same time.

KNOWN FOR: DreamCatchers is known

for being entirely run by youths in high school and college, serving the typically elderly population in hospice and palliative care. Students do everything from fundraising, awareness, dream planning and, of course, dream execution and connection with Dreamers. DreamCatchers is proud of its focus on intergenerational connection, which has stemmed from realizing that young people gain as much from these connections as the Dreamers benefit from their dream coming true.

After noticing that many patients were rarely visited by family or friends — and even more rarely by young people — Crommett came up with the idea of giving them a chance to have their last dream granted.


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CHALLENGES DURING COVID-19: Working with such a vulnerable population in hospice/ palliative care put many DreamCatchers activities on hold. Plus, student chapters had trouble engaging their members on a virtual-only basis, though many participated in pen pal programs. DreamCatchers launched the Kindness & Compassion Initiative at the onset of COVID to keep students connected to seniors in challenging times. The program has taken off, and now thousands of volunteers and seniors engage in pen pal and greeting card exchanges. To learn more, go to

CHEERS TO THE CHAIRS {Society of Chairs}

Congratulations to our April Honorees!

Congratulations to our May Honorees!

2019-2021 Chairs Colleen Chester, Sarah Frey, Courtney Gaintner, Kelly Vasbinder, and PANDA president , T ammy R yan

Ivy Ciolli, Chair, and Tracy Katz, Co-Chair

Field of Dreams ‘Children Helping Children’ Fashion Show & Luncheon

17th Annual Childhelp Drive the Dream Gala

To learn more about these ladies and their service to PANDA (People Acting Now Discover Answers), go to

To learn more about Childhelp, go to

Frontdoors Media is proud to recognize those who volunteer their time, treasure and talents to support local organizations in a leadership role.

Brought to you by:

Custom Logo Gifts to Brand Your Cause and Define Your Event

KITCHEN DOORS {let’s eat}

Photos by Jill Richards Photography




ELOTE CAFÉ Unique Mexican and Southwestern cuisine at one of Sedona’s most popular restaurants Jeff Smedstad grew up in Chandler and is living his dream in Sedona as chef and owner of the acclaimed Elote Café. He was inspired to be a chef by cooking in the U.S. Coast Guard. “As a kid from Chandler, I wanted to see new things,” Smedstad said. “It was a great experience going from the desert to the ocean and learning how to cook.” Smedstad attended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and was the founding chef at Los Sombreros, which he bought from his father. He spent time traveling around Mexico and studied in Oaxaca. “I was inspired by the markets, and my mind was blown by the tastes and flavors,” he said. “I immersed myself in the food and culture.” He had an opportunity to open a restaurant in Sedona, and Elote Café has received local and national recognition since opening in 2007. Smedstad credits


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Elote Café’s success to the food and the staff, many of whom have worked with him for more than a decade. “We offer a unique spin on Mexican and Southwestern food that represents the area that we are in,” he said. “Our team is very passionate and takes excellent care of our customers. People have dined here for years, and I love seeing families come back year after year.” Elote Café’s signature starter is the elote, fire-roasted corn with spicy mayo, lime and cotija cheese. The most popular dishes are the enchiladas, braised lamb shank with ancho chile sauce, and smoked pork cheeks with cascabel chile sauce and Smedstad’s grandmother’s corn cake. Desserts include flan, Mexican chocolate pie and pastel de elote, a sweet corn cake with dulce de leche and agave ice cream. The robust bar menu features mezcal and tequila flights, margaritas and cocktails made with in-house mixes, as well as beer, wine and afterdinner drinks. “The menu is inspired by food I’ve had in people’s homes and markets,” Smedstad said. “We get travelers from all over the world visiting the restaurant and it’s a great compliment when diners from Mexico say my food reminds them of home.” Elote Café lost its lease and opened in a new location in July 2020. “The new location is everything I’ve ever wanted in a restaurant “ THE MENU IS with a beautiful kitchen INSPIRED BY with new equipment, an FOOD I’VE HAD amazing bar and a great IN PEOPLE’S climate-controlled patio HOMES AND for year-round use,” MARKETS.” Smedstad said. A cookbook author with many accolades, including two James Beard nominations, Smedstad truly loves being in the kitchen. “This is my piece of paradise,” he said. “I’m a cook first and I’m lucky to have carved out a niche in such a beautiful place. I appreciate everything in my past which led me to where I am today, which is my dream come true.” Elote Café is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Learn more at



only. To my surprise, we’ve been doing better than ever. I also introduced a new line of whimsical baked goods called Shanny’s Bakeshop and it’s been very successful.” Shanny’s menu includes frozen bananas dipped in chocolate with a variety of toppings, cold brew coffee, popcorn and baked goods. Shanny’s most popular frozen bananas include dark chocolate with salted peanuts, dark chocolate with rainbow sprinkles and white chocolate with Fruity Pebbles cereal. Shanny’s decorated cookies and rice cereal treats are also top sellers. “I love what I do and having happy customers makes it all worth it,” Moss said. “I’ve met so many awesome people in the local culinary community and have even received praise from some big-name chefs. It inspires me to want to keep learning and improving.” Shanny’s products are available for pickup in central Phoenix and can be ordered through her website at They can also be ordered for delivery or pickup from the Uptown Farmers Market via

Mom of three creates unique treats Shannon Moss started Shanny’s Frozen Bananas in 2015 after having her third son. “Although I was a busy stay-at-home mom, I still had my entrepreneurial itch to create and do something unique,” Moss said. “With my background in visual and performing arts, I love how I’ve been able to apply my artistic talents using food as my medium.” The business started with a small cart at pop-up events and farmers markets. Moss expanded into wholesale and upgraded to a vintage trailer. When the pandemic hit, she quickly adapted her business. “I’ve learned that everything is a process and you have to go through the journey of trial and error to see what works,” Moss said. “When the pandemic hit, I made the decision to sell the trailer, downsize on inventory and menu options, and transition to delivery and pickup

Photos courtesy of Shanny’s Frozen Bananas

continued >>>


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KITCHEN DOORS (continued) Photo by Debby Wolvos

CARING CHEF: DANIELLE LEONI Supporting local farms and independent restaurants


Chef Danielle Leoni and her husband Dwayne Allen own The Breadfruit and Rum Bar in downtown Phoenix, as well as Big Marble Organics, which produces ginger beer that meets the highest sustainability and quality standards. They closed the restaurant in March 2020, when the pandemic hit. They haven’t reopened yet, but they have been hard at work with pop-up events and supporting the local community. Leoni has been involved with several local nonprofits, including Slow Food Phoenix, which focuses on nutritious food in schools, Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), which provides resources for high school students to pursue culinary careers, and Les Dames d’Escoffier, a philanthropic organization of women leaders in the culinary community. Leoni has participated in several James Beard Foundation programs, including Smart Catch promoting sustainable seafood, Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, and Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. She was the local all-star chef at the James Beard Taste America gala in Phoenix in 2019. Although the James Beard Foundation has put these programs on hold to focus on supporting restaurants

during the pandemic, Leoni continues to advocate for sustainability, local farms and independent restaurants. In 2020, she partnered with World Central Kitchen’s Frontline Foods program, which feeds first responders. “At the time, frontline workers were receiving local support and I saw there were many others in the community who needed help,” said Leoni, who worked with her restaurant staff to feed a few thousand people through A New Leaf, which provides housing and services for families affected by domestic violence and poverty. They provided food boxes with partially prepared meals with recipes and cooking instructions using Arizona produce, meats and grains. “It was an opportunity to help local farmers and help families feel empowered,” Leoni said. She gets immense satisfaction from helping others. “I’ve always been a fixer and organizer,” said Leoni, who earned the Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership degree at Arizona State University. “It feels good to help people. I hope I can be an inspiration and let people know they are capable of doing more good.” Leoni believes everyone can do their part. “Please keep supporting local independent restaurants through dine-in and takeout, and be kind to the staff,” she said. Leoni also suggests buying produce from local farmers markets. “They have such pride in their products and so much appreciation for the people that buy from them,” she said. Leoni passionately continues her fight to save independent restaurants. “We keep telling our story and hope enough people hear it to be inspired, and together we can all do something good.” Shoshana Leon | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Photo by Thom Barbour courtesy of World Central Kitchen


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Portraits, Events & Commercial - 602.677.3985

OPEN DOORS {publisher’s page}


Summer?! Andrea Tyler Evans | Publisher

OK, I started the year shouting, “COME ON!” — willing myself through the pandemic and the promise of vaccines. Then I moved on to “BREATHE!” as a way to encourage all of us (myself included) to get outside for some fresh air. And where am I now? Apparently designing a T-shirt that reads “High-Functioning Discombobulated Person” to label myself as someone who needs a break. A break from the fuzzy year this has been, filled with a lack of the usual markers in time we used to rely on. (And yes, if you posted that you want a shirt, they are coming soon!) Do you find yourself asking, “Was that pre-COVID or did I do that in October?” like I do? Did the year go slow, or did it go fast? I have NO IDEA, but I’m in for a realignment of sorts big-time. And you can be a part of it … at least the Frontdoors Media part. In the coming weeks, our team will be going through our annual evaluation of all things Frontdoors: the magazine, The Knock newsletter, social media posts — the whole kit and caboodle. And I’d love to

hear from you, our amazing readers. What do you want to see MORE of, what about LESS, and are we missing the boat entirely on a subject that’s important to you? You might be surprised to learn that a lot of what we do report on starts with a conversation that one of us had with one of YOU! I do have some vacation time coming up so I can clear out the COVID cobwebs that settled in when I was hunkered down at my desk, trying to solve the problem of the week, day or hour. A year is enough … time to shake it back up. I hope you will take a moment to drop me a line and see if your idea makes it into our 2021-22 season. Cheers!


Andrea Tyler Evans | PUBLISHER


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