Amy’s Purpose March Mixer honoring Bruce Fessier deemed ‘swinging success’ [Review]

Amy's Purpose Mixer Deemed Success [Opinion]

Willie Rhine, Jane Fessier, Bruce Fessier, and Albert Gonzalez (Photo courtesy of Maile Klein.)

This review is being written in the first person for a reason.  You see, I am the president of Amy’s Purpose and because Mother Nature had snowy plans for March 1, 2023, Jeffrey Clarke (Vice President) and I, could not attend our own event.

It was the day of the great blizzard of 2023 and like so many others, we were trapped inside our home; however, the show had to go on with or without the president and vice president of this little, but mighty nonprofit.  Thanks to a golden team of Amy’s Purpose board members, advisory council, and supporters, the mixer honoring Bruce Fessier, was a glowing success. Held at Willie’s Modern Fare in Rancho Mirage on this cold Wednesday evening, the ceremony turned out to be a fun, love fest between almost seventy guests, mostly old friends, mingling in a cozy atmosphere and enjoying great food.  Many thanks to Elaine Church, Leanna Bonamici, Tere Britton, Patti Gribow, Lisa Karr, Michael Phipps-Russell, Mary Steele, David Sullivan, Kim Hardee and so many more.  A special thank you to Willie Rhine.

Even though I wasn’t there, thank goodness for FaceTime.  Veronica Izurieta, COD PaCE Director, Partnership and Community Education, kindly called and I was able to watch the presentation to our honoree, Bruce Fessier, who is known for his 40 years as an award-winning writer-editor for The Desert Sun, as well as sideline gigs as an events producer.

Why was Bruce honored?  Let’s start from the beginning.

Our family’s little puppy mill rescued terrier, Amy, was let out in the backyard of our home along with our 80-pound American Bulldog, Sugar, one beautiful Sunday morning on December 19, 2019.  I had been aware of the dangers of wild predators but was under the false impression that they only hunted between sunset and sunrise.  I went back inside to grab a cup of tea before rejoining them.  I was only gone maybe two to three minutes.  That was enough time for three large coyotes to jump at the opportunity and kill her in seconds.

After witnessing this tragedy, Jeffrey and I made it our mission to start a nonprofit called Amy’s Purpose to bring awareness to pet owners of the dangers of wildlife, strays, and even human predators through safety programs and media channels.  We started this organization during the pandemic with out-of-pocket funding, hundreds of setup hours, and determination.  It was a start.

Then something else happened that opened the possibility of another mission to add to Amy’s Purpose.

One morning in the Spring of 2022, Sugar had hurt one of her back legs and could hardly walk.  I called our local vet, vets in the high and low desert, and VCA emergency clinics. Not one could take her as they were all overbooked and short-staffed. We ended up driving all the way to Banning to seek help.

I set out to find out what was going on through social media and with a phone interview with my local vet.  It was from that conversation and my own research that I learned of the local and national critical shortage of veterinarians, vet techs, and vet assistants.  Something had to be done.  Cherished pets were suffering and/or dying while their panicked pet parents were desperately trying to get them emergency help.  I worked with Michael Phipps-Russell, who is the executive director of Loving All Animals, to find out more about the College of the Desert’s Partnership and Community Education Program that has a Veterinary Assistant course. We had to start somewhere to eradicate the crises. Why not offer scholarships.

This is where Bruce Fessier came into the picture.  For years, every fall, we would meet for our annual lunch date at Red Robin.  This time, in 2022, I updated Bruce about Amy’s Purpose and its possible new mission to provide scholarships to those interested in animal sciences.  It was shortly after this when his and Jane’s little dog, Gracie, was hit and killed by a car on Frank Sinatra Drive.

Bruce immediately joined Amy’s Purpose’s crusade with passion and commitment.  He turned to his friend, Kay Hazen, to get the needed intro to the COD PaCE program.  It was a success. Bruce and I worked for many hours to obtain a partnership to set up an Amy’s Purpose scholarship fund.

It was determined, after much discussion, to produce a rock concert benefit called Pet Love and Rock & Roll to raise monies for veterinary assistant scholarships.  The success of this event, mostly due to Bruce’s extraordinary devotion to the cause, inspired many individuals to donate enough monies to provide eighteen $3200 scholarships, five of which were matched by the College of the Desert Foundation.  The first six scholarship recipients were enrolled in the course in October of 2022 and will graduate in March 2023.  Six more individuals have been awarded scholarships in the new course that began a few weeks ago. The next group of six will enroll in the summer or fall of 2023.  All with the goal to have them graduate and find employment at our local veterinary clinics and hospitals.  The hope is that some of these individuals will go on to become veterinary technicians and even aspire to become veterinarians in our desert cities.

This could not have happened without the compassion and drive of Bruce Fessier, who is most definitely considered Amy’s Purpose champion.  My stand-in for the evening was Patti Gribow who gave my speech and presented Bruce Fessier with his award.

“I was so moved to feel such support from the community I’ve loved and reported on for more than 44 years at the Amy’s Purpose mixer March 1 at Willie’s Modern Fare Restaurant,” said Bruce.  “My often-stated goal in producing the “Pet Love and Rock & Roll” benefit at the Palm Springs Art Museum last September was to build a community of pet lovers and pet healers to help improve veterinary care in the desert. The turnout at Willie’s indicated we have such a community, and it is growing.  I want to thank the Amy’s Purpose board for planning and executing the mixer, and I especially want to thank my wife, Jane, for not only jumping in to design and supervise the silent auction at the September benefit, but for allowing me to take time from our personal projects to support Amy’s Purpose.”

For more information about Amy’s Purpose and its education programs please go to   or call 760-831-3090  Amy’s Purpose is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Photo caption above:

Bruce Fessier, Patti Gribow, and Elaine Church

Image Sources

  • Amy’s Purpose: Photo courtesy of Maile Klein.