Philanthropist and civic leader Annette Bloch was born in Philadelphia where she lived until her marriage to Richard Bloch, founder of H&R Block. She and her late husband have three daughters, seven grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. A breast cancer survivor and philanthropist, Annette is president of the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation and oversees the Bloch Cancer Hotline. She is a trustee of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Also in Palm Springs, she has received a Meritorious Gold Palm Star for her enduring and selfless contributions to charitable causes. Annette’s has worked tirelessly on behalf of heart and cancer patients, establishing the Richard and Annette Bloch Heart Rhythm Center, the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion, and the Richard and Annette Bloch Radiation Oncology Pavilion at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City as well as the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center for the Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs, California. Most recently she received the prestigious Athena Award from the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce for her commitment to helping others.
Annette, you do so much for the Palm Springs community though your philanthropic efforts with the Palm Springs Art Museum, the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center for the Desert AIDS Project and so much more. You’ve been widely recognized for your efforts on behalf of heart and cancer patients and I’d like to congratulate you on your most recent award (the 26th annual Athena Awards luncheon took place on December 4th at the Renaissance Palm Springs). How did you originally come to be involved in charitable causes?
Our giving really started early on in that, shortly after my marriage, my amazing mother-in-law told me that someday my husband would be very, very successful and that we had to be sure to remember to give back. I was 19 at the time, and I’ve never, ever forgotten that!
Annette, you and your late husband, Richard, have been long-time activists for improved cancer care. You’ve said that your biggest challenge was when Dick was diagnosed with lung cancer and given two months to live. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. How did that journey effect how you approach your philanthropic and civic commitments?
Our major philanthropy started after my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and given two months to live. The doctors told him they’d cure him so that he could work to fight cancer. And they did, and so we did. We knew we had a big debt to pay! We started doing a lot of cancer programs. Everything we did was free: support centers and second opinion centers (with a panel of doctors with which patients can discuss treatments and then, after listening to all the specialists, can make educated decisions–truly knowing their options). Then we started–and still are doing–a cancer hotline with a toll free number that patients can call when they are first diagnosed; they are then put in touch with survivors of that same particular cancer. We have about 600 volunteers across the country that were former cancer patients. It shows people that there is life after diagnosis of cancer and hopefully in many cases, a good quality of life.
Then we started building cancer survivor parks throughout the US and Canada, similar to the one we have here in Rancho Mirage. And I, myself, am a four-year breast cancer survivor. Our goal was–and mine still is–to make a difference in people’s lives.
And what brought you to Palm Springs?
Good friends! We came to visit and we fell in love with the area. That was 24 years ago and I’m still deeply in love with Palm Springs.
Annette, please describe for us a favorite day spent in Palm Springs.
Every day! Because I do something different every day, except that I do have a bridge game once a week, and then there are Wednesdays which are my maintenance days with massage, facial, manicure and hair appointments.
And then there are all the board meetings! I’m the board of the Annenberg Council as well as the Board of Trustees and various associated councils at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
You are one busy lady! Are there any upcoming Palm Springs events that you’re particularly excited about?
There’s the Palm Springs Art Museum Gala coming up on the 26th of January. And I’m going to be awarded a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on Feb. 7th, and then Feb 9th is the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards Gala for the Desert AIDS Project where I’ll be receiving the 100 WOMEN Award.
That’s fantastic, Annette–congratulations! You have much to celebrate–any favorite restaurant destinations in the Palm Springs area you’d like to share with us? It sounds like we need to share a much-deserved glass of champagne somewhere!
How can you pick just one? I love Spencer’s and LuLu, Tiramisu, Palmie, Jillian’s, Chez Pierre, Wally’s–and I like them all because they’re all different. I definitely try to support the locally owned business that make the Palm Springs area so unique.
And what is it that you love most about the community of Palm Springs?
I just love it all. The people here are just so nice. And everybody’s here for the same thing: to make friends, to enjoy life. I just feel so fortunate to be here, it’s a very unique, wonderful community. People are very proud of the Palm Springs area and do a lot to support it.
Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us today, Annette–you are indeed a bright, shining star for Palm Springs!
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