Maria Elena Geyer
President / CEO
Maria Elena Geyer, a healthcare executive with more than 25 years of experience in non-profit management, is President and Chief Executive Officer. In this capacity, she is responsible for the strategic and operational direction of the organization.
Maria Elena joined CancerPartners (then called Gilda’s Club Desert Cities) in January 2015, after two years as CEO of North Eastern Pennsylvania Blood Services of the American Red Cross and 22 years in senior management positions at the Puget Sound Blood Center in Seattle. She started at the Blood Center as its Director of Donor and Volunteer Resources, then rose to the position of Executive Vice President of Marketing and Community Affairs. Her connection to cancer began early in her blood banking days, as she supported cancer patients through blood components such as blood platelets that are required in their cancer treatments.
With a strong commitment to growing programs and reaching out to the community, Maria Elena began to forge new partnerships with local non-profits and healthcare providers immediately upon her arrival in the Coachella Valley. She spearheaded the creation of “Better Together for Community,” a collaborative of five local cancer support organizations and secured a unique mental health grant to support its ambitious outreach plan.
Significant programs she has launched include a nutrition education program led by a certified nutritionist that not only teaches nutrition facts but also demonstrates how to choose and prepare foods that are flavorful and supportive of the cancer journey, and a grief and loss program that brings emotional support to middle-school students in the Desert Sands Unified School District.
In 2017, Maria Elena oversaw the name change from Gilda’s Club Desert Cities and rebranding as CancerPartners. She created the two new fundraisers, the Passions Ball and the Old Bags Luncheon, that provide significant funding for the organization’s program of educational and emotional support.
Born in Costa Rica, Maria Elena came to the United States with her family when she was 16. She soon earned two degrees at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida, a Bachelor of Science in Art and a Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Med. Her career in the field of medicine began in Fort Lauderdale shortly thereafter, and healthcare has been her cherished life’s work ever since.
Maria Elena, husband Mark Geyer, and their 94-pound standard poodle, Bach, make their home in Palm Desert.
Darcy Aviles, MA, APCC
Darcy Aviles, a Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor, serves as CancerPartners’ Program Manager. In this role, she assists in the development and management of social, emotional and educational programs and conducts New Participant Orientations. Darcy holds a Master of Arts in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Redlands and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Educational Studies from the University of California, Irvine. She has worked in the healthcare field for more than seven years and has a background in both non-profit management and mental health.In addition to her work at CancerPartners, she is a Mental Health Therapist at local facilities. Her professional and educational background have given her the opportunity to work with, advocate for and represent diverse populations including minority groups, cancer patients and the LGBT community. She has a passion for helping distressed individuals and couples, abuse and trauma survivors, post-divorce families, stepfamilies and couples.
PUBLIC RELATIONS & COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
As PR & Communications Coordinator, Anita Roark is responsible for CancerPartners’ public relations and marketing/advertising initiatives and serves as principal writer and editor for the organization’s publications and external communications. She has provided this support since late 2010, after serving for five years as the Health Programs Manager of the American Cancer Society’s Palm Desert office.
A significant portion of Anita’s career in healthcare public relations has been devoted to cancer communications, including serving as the Public Information Officer for UCLA’s Medical Center, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Dentistry. She has also been Public Relations Director at The Salk Institute for Biological Research in La Jolla, Public Relations Manager at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and Director of Marketing Communications for the Southern California chapter of the March of Dimes.
Anita graduated from Whitworth College in Spokane, WA with a double major in English and Spanish. She earned her master’s in Latin American Literature at the Instituto Caro y Cuervo in Bogotá, Colombia while on a Fulbright grant and completed work towards a PhD at New York University. She has taught Spanish at Northeastern University in Boston and writing for public relations at the UCLA Extension. Since moving to the desert in 2005, she has made her home in Cathedral City, and enjoys travel, the arts, and writing feature stories for the Desert Sun’s Desert Scene section—including about CancerPartners events.
April Hanig, MA, LMFT
Former Program Director April Hanig currently serves as Program Consultant at CancerPartners. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, April has a background in both non-profit management and mental health. She earned a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. Since 2011, she has worked with individuals and families from diverse backgrounds in school settings, clinics, and non-profit agencies and maintains a private practice in Rancho Mirage. As CancerPartners Program Consultant, April assists in the development of new programs.
Administrative Coordinator Tate Lewis provides administrative support for senior management, assists in event coordination, and is responsible for donor follow-up. Her background in the financial field includes working at a local tax service as a tax-preparation assistant during the tax season.
Tate first became involved in the community in 2008, as a dancer at the Cathedral City Dance Program Center for Dance Education. She began to teach dance there in 2011 and continued for four years. From 2013 through 2016, she was a math tutor at the Mojave River Academy in Palm Springs.
Tate trained as a dancer under Kimera Lewis of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Ronald Brown of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
Tate is a lifelong Coachella Valley resident. She and her husband, Christian Romero, reside in Palm Springs.
In her position as Volunteer Coordinator/Receptionist, Daniela Reyes finds, trains and schedules volunteers who are eager to support the organization. She manages the reception area and inputs data on program participation and volunteer hours.
A Coachella Valley native, Daniela has loved working within her community for the past 15 years. For 10 years, Daniela was in the banking field. For the last five, she and her husband have owned a bicycle rental company that provides bike rentals to hotels in Los Angeles and the desert. She is also studying for an accounting degree at College of the Desert.
Daniela originally came to CancerPartners as a member, as she has lost several close family members to Cancer. She quickly fell in love with what CancerPartners does for the local community, and when the opportunity presented itself, stepped into the Volunteer Coordinator/ Receptionist position. It allows her to do what she loves best: “getting to know our members and the new faces that walk through our doors.”
As CancerPartners’ Online Consultant, Kippy Flur creates and maintains all the organization’s online content. This includes its website, email newsletters and campaigns for upcoming events.
Kippy began as a business development consultant to Israeli startups in 1999 and enthusiastically adopted every new technology that came online, often learning about cutting-edge developments through her startup clients. In 2007, Kippy decided to focus on the area she enjoyed most—marketing communications. She spent the next 9 years in small and large companies overseeing marketing activities focused on brand building (websites, advertising, live events, brochureware) and managing both in-house and outsourced teams—always close to business development activities.
Since settling in Palm Desert, Kippy focuses her talents on building websites, writing clear, concise market copy and managing email newsletters and marketing campaigns.