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Frances Allen’s Desert Roundup—Anchor Bianca Rae Honored by Guide Dog Center

Lili Goldwein with her dog Zita at the Guide Dog Center benefit. Photo by Pat Krause

 Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 – 4:06 PM

When teen-ager Matthew Varon passed away, his grandmother Helen Veron, a noted philanthropist, wanted to set up a suitable remembrance for him. The Guide Dog Center in Israel is the result.

Each year, grandmother Helen Varon hosts a memorial luncheon to raise money for the Guide Dog Center, in her grandson’s name. Before the founding of this one-of-a-kind facility, Israelis who needed the services of a guide dog had to fly to the U.S. to get one. Not only was the travel a hardship, but also the dogs did not understand Israel’s unique environment and obstacles.

There are 24,000 blind persons in Israel and, as the need grows, more outreach is needed. There are now support groups in Great Britain and Canada.

Local television news anchor, Bianca Rae, was honored for her actions on behalf of animals in the Coachella Valley, while guest of honor Lili Goldwein and Zita, her four-legged companion, shared a bit of their courage and dedication.

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It was an evening of musical alchemy as a “Merlin” of the grand piano transformed the masterful sounds produced by the black and white keys as golden sounds of luxurious music.

It started about 40 years ago when Joanna Hodges, a classical pianist and music teacher at College of the Desert, devised a competition designed to give gifted young pianists performance opportunities, with the winners receiving recital and concerto dates at prestigious concert venues throughout the U. S. and Europe.

But by the turn-of-the-century the competition had become moribund. That’s when the musical talents and organizational acumen of Desert resident and renowned pianist, Mrs. Fred Waring, took over the reigns of the competition and reorganized it into what is now known world-wide as the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition.

Though Virginia is no longer with us, dedicated supporters like Peggy Cravens (president/board chair) and well-known entertainers Peter Duchin, Carlo Ponti, Jr., Marilyn Horne, Byron Janis and artistic director John Bayless ably guide the mission of the competition that carries the Waring name.

While most competitive events are held yearly, the actual performances of the Virginia Waring International are now bi-annual. Because the costs of transporting and housing contestants are substantial, the organization’ holds a major fundraiser … the Black & White Gala, which honored Jack and Patti Grundhoffer, headline entertainment was flawlessly provided by Bayless and the remarkable talent of Philip Fortenberry.

For more information about The Waring International Piano Competition, call 760-773-2575.

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