Entering its sixth year, the Valley of Hope gala is a night of entertainment, auctions and philanthropy, honoring the lives taken and survivors of the disease that knows no gender, race or socioeconomic background – cancer.

The American Cancer Society’s Bakersfield branch hosts this gala each year to raise funds for research, but also to unite the community to rally behind the scientific search for a cure. Hobnob with public officials and local celebrities dressed to the nines hoping to raise money and find a cure.

This year’s event will take place Oct. 19 at the ranch of Julie and Matt Fisher, who have generously opened their home and ranch to the gala for the past four years.

“It’s a really neat atmosphere, outdoors, under a canopy of oak trees with beautiful lighting and music. It’s a magical evening,” said Lara Weberling, ACS development manager for distinguished events. “It’s got a bohemian feel; it’s going to be fun, airy and fantastic.”

This year’s honoree is Rick Kreiser, owner of Carney’s Business Technology Center, who will be speaking about the loss of many of his family members and how the American Cancer Society of Bakersfield supports victims and their families in their most dire time of need.

Each year, the gala wows attendees with vast silent and live auction opportunities, from spa packages to vacations, and this year is no exception. Galagoers can also slip into their dancing shoes to groove to live entertainment and music, cocktails in hand, and then relax under the oak trees to enjoy a farm-to-table-style catered dinner.

To date, locals attending the Valley of Hope galas have been able to raise over $1 million in the past five years. This year’s goal is to raise of $300,000 in one night. Funds raised at the Valley of Hope benefit the American Cancer Society’s general fund, which has made huge strides in finding a “cure,” which does not look the same from patient to patient.

“The way cancer works is that there is no one Band-Aid for each type of cancer. There isn’t just one cure – there are cures and treatments,” said Weberling. “It’s a very specialized process, including identifying and diagnosing and then customizing treatment programs.”

ACS Bakersfield provides important services and advocacy for patients and their families, from support groups, wigs for chemotherapy patients, even rides to treatment and discounted or free hotel rooms for patients and families seeking treatment outside of town.

“We bridge that gap through our volunteer driver program,” said Weberling, “We also more broadly advocate for patients’ rights on the state and local level. Some of our representatives work with local hospitals and clinics where we provide research and recommendations for clinical training.”

These simple and often overlooked acts of kindness are coordinated and staffed by volunteers, and the same volunteers also coordinate, host and fundraise for the gala each year. This year’s volunteer co-chairs are Katie Corrigan and Jenifer Pitcher and the chair emeritus is Christy Hornbuckle. The honorary chair this year is Olympic Bronze medalist Gabe Woodward, a Bakersfield native and cancer survivor who swam in the 4x100 relay in Athens.

“(The volunteers) give of themselves throughout the entire year, not just during the gala season,” said Weberling. “They roll up their sleeves to make this huge commitment and make this event successful.” 

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