Danielle Victoria: Founder of Danielle Victoria Music Foundation

Danielle Victoria, founder of the Danielle Victoria Music Foundation, photographed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Danielle Victoria, founder of the Danielle Victoria Music Foundation, photographed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Danielle Victoria
www.dvmusicfoundation.com

Danielle Victoria knows the power of music, having played piano since she was only 5 years old and having a strong passion for the art form. The 17-year-old Scottsdale resident founded the Danielle Victoria Music Foundation in March 2015 to help provide music education to Arizona’s underprivileged students, by working with local arts and educational organizations to offer needs-based scholarships for music education.

Victoria talked about why she felt helping kids through music education in Arizona is important, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

After living in New York, my parents decided to relocate to Arizona in 2007.

I was born in Malaysia and switched between London, Hong Kong, and Malaysia for my first seven years due to my parents’ work. My family then moved to New York and lived there for two years before moving here to Arizona. This is our eighth year here, and I currently attend Desert Mountain High School as a senior and International Baccalaureate student. Continue reading

Mia McPoland: Blood and Bone Marrow Donation Awareness Activist

Mia McPoland, 12-year-old blood and organ donation activist, photographed at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Mia McPoland, 12-year-old blood and bone marrow donation activist, photographed at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Mia McPoland
www.bethematchfoundation.org/goto/MiaMcPoland

Mia McPoland, a 12-year-old from Chandler, is turning her struggle with an extremely rare disorder into a mission to increase blood and bone marrow donation throughout the state. As an infant, McPoland was diagnosed with Diamond Blackfan anemia, a rare inherited bone marrow failure syndrome that causes her to not produce red blood cells. As a result, she has received monthly blood transfusions since her diagnosis, while she also deals with Turner syndrome.

As an activist, the spunky student works with several local nonprofits, as well as serves as an honorary assistant coach for the Phoenix Mercury women’s basketball team, to raise awareness for the causes so close to her and her family. She has been hosting blood drives since she was in kindergarten and is an activist for organizations Be the Match, HopeKids, Camp Soaring Eagle, and PeppedUp!

Besides donating blood every 50 days to help patients like McPoland, you can show support by participating in the September Champ 5K on Saturday, September 19, to benefit children’s cancer causes. The event will also feature a blood drive — visit www.septemberchamp.org for more information.

Read on to learn more about McPoland, and you can check out a video where she names her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born here. I’m going into seventh grade at Santan Junior High school. Continue reading

Elena Thornton: Founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts

Elena Thornton, founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts, photographed at Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Elena Thornton, founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts, photographed at Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Elena Thornton
www.artizona.org

Elena Thornton believes the arts are instrumental in the advancement of humanity. In an effort to help support and foster arts and culture here in the Valley, she founded the Arizona Consortium for the Arts in 2007, which puts on free art events and festivals throughout the Phoenix area and sponsors literary and poetry magazines. The nonprofit’s monthly open mics, spanning all disciplines and genres, take place at the Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix every last Thursday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m., including this Thursday, May 28.

Thornton’s ultimate goal for the Arizona Consortium for the Arts is to use it as a vehicle to open a multicultural center that will be free for local arts groups to use, as rehearsal, performing and recording space and more. The 53-year-old Phoenix resident talked more about her goals for the Arizona Consortium for the Arts and for Valley arts, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was a Russian teacher in upstate New York, and the weather was depressing, with rain and snow all the time. We — my husband Jim and our son Jeremy — came here on vacation during spring break in April of 1994, and we moved in July.

I was born in Moldova, and my family moved to Albany, New York, in 1976. After graduating from Albany High School, I went to the University at Albany (SUNY) and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. Continue reading

Alexi DeVilliers: Creator of Fishliptz Sculptures

Alexi DeVilliers, founder of Fishliptz, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Alexi DeVilliers, founder of Fishliptz, photographed at his home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Alexi Devilliers
facebook.com/Fishliptz

Alexi DeVilliers started his career with wanting to feed the homeless. The 48-year-old Tempe resident creates unique sculptures, such as robots and dogs, made out of cans formerly containing food used to cook meals for those in an elderly shelter. As an artist, he goes by Fishliptz, which he’s been devoted to full-time since November. His art is sold everywhere from Method Art Gallery in Scottsdale and SunDust Gallery & Art Center in Gilbert, to Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art in Prescott, Arizona, Pop Gallery in Sante Fe and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Find him  on 4th St. and Roosevelt for every First Friday Artwalk in downtown Phoenix, and read more about how he merges his passion for creating art with helping others, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m from Miami, and 9/11 brought my wife and I here around 13 years ago. My wife worked for the airlines, and I worked for a sprinkler company. After 9/11, they started to lay people off and gave her a severance package. We were going to come here to visit my friend John for his 40th birthday, and we said, “Let’s just move.”

I was born in New York, and my parents were born in Cuba. We moved to Florida when I was 5. Continue reading

Pam Gaber: CEO of Gabriel’s Angels Pet Therapy Program

Pam Gaber, CEO of Gabriel's Angels, pet therapy for abused and at-risk children, photographed at her office in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Pam Gaber, CEO of Gabriel’s Angels, pet therapy for abused and at-risk children, photographed at her office in Phoenix with therapy dog Micah, by Nicki Escudero

Pam Gaber
twitter.com/GabrielsAngels

Pam Gaber just wanted to bring some light into the lives of at-risk children when she brought her dog, Gabriel, to visit the kids at Crisis Nursery in Phoenix while she was volunteering there back in 1999. His impact inspired her to start nonprofit Gabriel’s Angels, which connects therapy dogs with at-risk youth, going strong since 2000 and now serving 13,500 Valley kids a year. Gaber, a 57-year-old Scottsdale resident, ditched the corporate life to work full-time as CEO for Gabriel’s Angels, which now has 11 full-time employees and 175 therapy dog teams, as well as a therapy miniature horse, bunny and cat.

Gabriel’s Angels serves kids all over the state, from Tucson to Prescott, Sedona and Cottonwood, and is funded through individuals, corporate grants and events. The nonprofit hosts a breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore Friday, May 2, which is free to the public — find more information here. The organization is also partnering with Brad Jaffe, owner of Dogological dog teaching program, for his crowdfunding campaign for an upcoming dog training DVD — donate to the campaign, and a portion of the funds raised go toward Gabriel’s Angels.

Gaber, also the author of a memoir, Gabriel’s Angels: The Story of the Dog Who Inspired a Revolution, talked about how her passion for helping has turned into a new career. Scroll down to watch a video of her talking about her favorite reasons for living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My corporate career. I was working for a pharmaceutical company in Florida before moving to Dallas, and then I was moved to Phoenix in 1989. I was born in New Jersey and grew up on the West coast of Florida. Continue reading

Ron Hoon: FOX 10 Morning Show Anchor, Community Activist

Ron Hoon, anchor for the Phoenix FOX 10 Morning Show, photographed at the FOX 10 Studios in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Hoon, anchor for the FOX 10 Morning Show, photographed at the FOX 10 Studios in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Hoon
twitter.com/RonHoonFox10

Ron Hoon is one of the most prominent Valley media figures, having been on local airwaves on FOX 10 for the past 31 years. The 56-year-old Mesa resident is currently the morning show anchor, where you can watch him Monday through Friday from 4:30-10 a.m., telling Valley viewers about national and local news trends while interviewing world and local stand-outs — all while keeping his cool under the lights during the live show. Read on for where his passion comes from, and keep scrolling for a video of five of his favorite things about living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

When I was in about 6th grade living in Wenatchee, Washington, the apple capital of the work, my very first job was picking apples. I was listening to a broadcast of the Seattle Supersonics one cold, miserable day up there, and the announcer was talking about what a beautiful day it was in Phoenix, since the Supersonics were playing the (Phoenix) Suns. He was talking about being in shirtsleeves all day and how they went out golfing and how it was so beautiful. That planted the seed.

I was born in Washington, went to high school there, and then went to University of Washington to study broadcasting, journalism and business. I got a job at the ABC station in Spokane anchoring the news, and after a couple years, I decided to see what was out there. My wife and I loaded up our little Toyota station wagon with a bunch of videotapes and no air conditioner and drove around the West. We drove to Denver, L.A. and Phoenix, and we really had a connection with this city and this station. I was about 25 years old when I moved here.

Continue reading

Sadie Such: Owner of Sadie Such Photography and Films

Sadie Such
twitter.com/SadieSuch

Sadie Such has been able to combine two of her biggest passions — photography/videography and helping people — with a really cool layer: traveling around the globe. The 23-year-old Phoenix resident, who has owned Sadie Such Photography and Films for the past 3 years, also goes on volunteer mission trips to places such as Central America and West Africa. Such, who has a degree in film production from the Film School at Scottsdale Community College (and played tennis there), has worked with organizations including PhotogenX to document social injustice around the globe, as well as teach photography and video skills. She’ll be headed to Zambia in June and has ideas for films of her own, and she talked about what drives her passion. Keep reading to hear five reasons why Such loves living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised in Phoenix. Probably about 4 years ago, I started traveling internationally and living in different states, but I always ended up back here because my family is here. Continue reading

Kyle Clayton: Jackrabbit Janitorial, Awesome Cookie Company Co-Founder

Kyle Clayton, Jackrabbit Janitorial and Awesome Cookie Company co-founder, photographed at Co+Hoots in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kyle Clayton, Jackrabbit Janitorial and Awesome Cookie Company co-founder, photographed at Co+Hoots in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kyle Clayton
twitter.com/KyleClaytonGore

Kyle Clayton studied Spanish and business at Arizona State University, but he hasn’t had to work for anyone since. The 27-year-old Phoenix native and serial entrepreneur co-founded Jackrabbit Janitorial, a local janitorial service using green products, before he graduated. Since, he’s co-founded Awesome Cookie Company, whose cookies can be found in Valley cafes and ordered online, as well as Simple Home Automation and Interiors, providing window coverings and home audio for businesses. Plus, the busy guy does business consulting on the side and is a member of the invite-only Young Entrepreneur Council. His interest in green practices inspired him to found Thrive Phoenix, an event this Saturday, May 4 at Co+Hoots featuring green businesses from around the Valley with workshops on how to live more environmentally-consciously. Read on for what drives his entrepreneurial spirit as well as why he believes in local businesses, as well as to hear him talk about five of his favorite things about the Valley. Learn more about Thrive here.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents. I’m a native, and I decided to stay, because it’s hard to leave the place you grew up, and it’s become so much cooler than when I was younger. I went to Ironwood High School and ASU and did a brief stint at NAU. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in international business. I lived for a year in Spain. Continue reading

Nicole Gaskell: Founder of Alert & Aware America

Nicole Gaskell, Alert & Aware America founder, photographed at The Main Ingredient in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Gaskell, Alert & Aware America founder, photographed at The Main Ingredient in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Gaskell
twitter.com/Alert_Aware

Nicole Gaskell has experienced a ton of scary situations, from receiving roofies to witnessing her mother being accosted in a mall bathroom. The Phoenix resident wants to ensure young people in the Valley stay safe, founding nonprofit Alert & Aware America in 2011, which teaches schoolchildren self-defense techniques, as well as works with other nonprofits. The 29-year-old from Cortland, N.Y. uses her military experience and martial arts training in her courses, and she also teaches Self-Defense 101 with her mom (also a self-defense instructor) at Scottsdale Community College. Read on to hear more about the experiences that inspired her to teach self-defense to others, as well as to hear five reasons why Gaskell loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

The weather. Everyone always said it was a gorgeous place to live, and I always had a problem with the cold and never with heat. I love the outdoors, and my mom wanted to move here. I checked it out and moved here after I found a job.

I was born in Cortland, New York, near Syracuse. I went to Niagara University and got my Bachelor’s degree in marketing and a minor in military science. I went to Germany with the military and lived there for a few years before moving to Arizona in September 2006. Continue reading

Ron Haberle: PeppedUp! Founder, Cancer Survivor

Ron Haberle, PeppedUp! founder and cancer survivor, photographed at Dos Gringos in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Haberle, PeppedUp! founder and cancer survivor, photographed at Dos Gringos in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Haberle
twitter.com/PeppedUp

Ron Haberle has been cancer-free for the past 17 years, but his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was diagnosed at 19 still inspires him today. Haberle has created a local nonprofit called PeppedUp! that brings fun technology, such as gaming systems and tablets, to kids who have cancer. For almost the past 2 years, PeppedUp! has helped deliver gadgets such as iPad‘s and PlayStation Vita‘s to kids all over the country, and last year, PeppedUp! raised more than $45,000 to give kids the opportunity to play something fun during a challenging time. Haberle, a 38-year-old Chandler resident and Woodbury, New Jersey native, works as a senior software developer for iMemories during the day and has donated more than $15,000 of his own money to the PeppedUp! cause. Head to the Dos Gringos Cinco de Mayo block party in Old Town Scottsdale Sunday, May 5, since proceeds are benefiting PeppedUp! Read on to hear more about the nonprofit, as well as to see a video of Haberle talking about his five favorite things about the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

An ex-girlfriend. I always wanted to move to California, and when I was younger, I said I would move to the West Coast if I could. My fiancee at the time wanted to go into graduate school, and her second school on the list was ASU. We didn’t wind up together, but I like the West Coast lifestyle more than the East Coast lifestyle. I was born in Woodbury, New Jersey. The people here are a lot more laid-back. The weather’s nicer. I love the scenery, the open skies. Continue reading