Inspired By Miracles: Selby & Curt Dunham

Photography by Mark Davidson and Pat Lassy

Romance Survives Cancer

Selby and Curt Dunham met at BIGHORN 17 years ago during a party for one of the spec homes Curt had recently built on property. As a new Member, Selby attended with a girlfriend and immediately noticed Curt from across the room. “I was thinking, ‘He’s 6 foot 5, young, and probably married!” she laughs. But she made her way over anyway, only to discover she had coincidentally met his daughter the night before. Selby had been at a girlfriend’s house when his teenager and her friend had popped in for some last-minute hair curling before a school dance. After a first date dancing at Costas, and a bit of lag time on Curt’s part (he had confessed to Selby’s friend, “She’s a country club girl. What would she want with me?”), the two eventually sold their homes, moved to BIGHORN together, and have been here ever since.

Shortly thereafter, in 2005, Selby was diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive breast cancer. Her rigorous treatment plan, which began the very next day, spanned from February through November of that year. It encompassed chemotherapy, a mastectomy, 33 grueling radiation treatments, and hormone therapy. “People have asked me, ‘How long have you been a survivor?’ The day I was diagnosed I became a survivor,” she says. “And as long as I am on this side of the earth, I will be a survivor.” Since then, Selby has been an inspiration for fellow survivors, particularly those in the Coachella Valley.

On a Hawaiian vacation the following January, Curt bent down on one knee and uttered the words neither one of them will ever forget: “With God above me and the setting sun and ocean behind me, I want to know if you’ll be my wife?” Selby recalls. “Then, the tears! And my hair was this short!” she gestures to show less than an inch. Curt’s two daughters and her son were excited they were getting married – and possibly just as excited to skip out of school and fly to the islands! After his Tuesday proposal, the two got married the following Saturday, then threw a Hawaiianthemed reception surrounded by their friends back at BIGHORN. “I met Selby here and we celebrated our marriage here,” Curt says. “And it’s become a very special place to me.” Fast forward to 2011 when daughter Whitney wed in the Dunhams’ backyard followed by a sit-down dinner and reception, which only added another meaningful layer to their family’s BIGHORN story.

The Dunham Wedding

The couple, who now have three grandchildren, have contributed to BIGHORN exponentially. Curt has built 25 homes and counting; Selby developed two homes before founding BAM and leading its tireless fundraising (and adventure-having!) events for a decade. Both anticipate years of fun ahead, whether it’s playing golf, bocce ball, horseshoes, ping pong, or holeyboard with their family at home or hitting the driving range together. “Our family is very competitive,” says Curt, and BIGHORN’s amenities tap into that. “Now the new clubhouse with its outdoor feeling and views will be the last piece of the puzzle,” he adds. “All we need is a gas station up here and we’ll never leave!”

“Bam!” Becomes BIGHORN BAM

BAM’s origin began while Selby was in recovery after her treatment. A BIGHORN committee for a breast cancer golf tournament asked Selby if she would lend a hand. Her brainchild to sell full sponsorships skyrocketed the money earned from $12,000 the year before to a whopping $86,000! The following year, the committee asked Selby to step up and chair the event. “Absolutely I would, I told them,” she says. “But this year we’re going to change it,” she had said. Instead of benefitting a national organization, Selby wanted to see every penny raised stay right here in the desert. Her vision was to save the lives of Coachella Valley cancer patients and improve their roads to recovery. Ten years later, few could have imagined the success or impact of those three letters. For Selby, the journey continues on many levels.

“We need something that’s big and strong, like, you know, ‘Bam!’” friend Vicki Schons had said during a meeting back in 2005. A core group of women behind the golf tournament fundraiser had decided to change direction to ensure the funds they raised stayed in the Valley and they were brainstorming for a name. Her exclamation stuck.

A Decade of BAM Miracles

Ten years later, BIGHORN BAM (Behind A Miracle) is celebrating an anniversary of tremendous proportions and significance. An incredible $6.5 million has been raised in the past nine years for cancer patient support services, breast cancer diagnostic technologies, and educational scholarships. This extraordinary fundraising feat is made possible through hard-working volunteers and generous donors who understand the importance of finding a cure to cancer while at the same time adding fun and flair to BAM’s exciting events. And it all started with one visionary survivor.

The Dunhams

“Because I have been through cancer, people come to me seeking advice or just because they need someone to talk to,” Selby says. “I’m happy to do so because I can empathize with what that person might be going through.”

Growing Through Giving

BAM’s contagious energy, fire, and enthusiasm for fundraising has spread to BIGHORN Members, Valley donors, volunteers, and sponsors. In turn, their genuine spirit of giving has helped BAM grow. The generosity they have exhibited over the course of a decade affords BAM the chance to make a concentrated, locally focused difference like no other.

BAM’s committee members are instrumental in orchestrating five cornerstone fundraising events. These kick off a season of philanthropy in November with A Miracle on El Paseo in all of its Holiday splendor, followed by Game Day for Life, initiated by survivor Susan Goldfine. The afternoon luncheon, fashion show, and shopping portion are followed by an afternoon of playing the most popular ladies’ games (including canasta, bridge, and mah jongg) to raise money for BAM. A Night of Miracles mixes entertainment and high-stakes auctions. A wine pull and paddle up, exciting silent and live auctions featuring watches from Leeds & Sons, and golf and wine vacations are de rigeur during this glorious evening of fundraising. The Cash for Caddies event and the Golf Tournament engage more than 100 BIGHORN Members in spirited competition, camaraderie, and golf-infused giving for a cause.

In April, BAM introduced another sold-out event with the inaugural Charity Tennis Mixer in April at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Hot on the heels of the BNP Paribas Open, this world-class tennis experience opened with a warm-up session with IWTG’s pro staff followed by competitive doubles matches, a catered lunch by Piero’s PizzaVino, final matches played in the famed Stadium 2, a behind-the-scenes tour that included Larry Ellison’s celebrity suite, and a VIP cocktail reception.

Over the years, BAM has raised funds with creativity, innovation, and a zest for the cause. From the one-hour hitting session with Pete Sampras that was recently auctioned for $70,000 to three exclusive private dinners with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn that featured the couple’s wines on the dinner table of R.D. and Joan Dale Hubbard’s BIGHORN home a few years ago, over-the-top ideas have been rewarded with unbridled philanthropy.

Curt has witnessed with pride and awe as Selby and the committee members have nurtured BAM into a mature and thriving non-profit organization. “Watching BAM grow like it has over the past ten years has been fantastic, and I can’t wait to see another ten,” he says.

Success tends to breed success, and each year BAM has set new records as an increasing number of people from BIGHORN and beyond want to help and to give. Thanks to BAM, the 30,000 patients who are seen at the Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center and Schnitzer/Novack Breast Center annually are diagnosed and treated with high-performance, cutting-edge technologies purchased with funds raised by BIGHORN BAM. From mammogram systems, ultrasound machines, and comforting spa robes for patients awaiting radiation treatment to the BIGHORN BAM Procedure Suite that allows patients to receive comprehensive care in one location, the life-saving enhancements they have provided at Eisenhower Medical Center have contributed to its reputation as a premier health care facility that continues to receive accolades and honors.

“We need to help them stay on the cutting edge with equipment and technology and we need to help all people in the Valley receive the best treatment,” Selby says, looking out to BAM’s horizon. “If we continue to have the best equipment and technology then we will continue to have the best doctors, too.”

Local Lives Impacted, Starting at Home

Each year Eisenhower supplies BAM with a “wish list,” which BAM astonishingly excels in fulfilling. Yet medical equipment and related transportation services are only the beginning. BIGHORN BAM has also given $520,000 to The Pendleton Foundation to assist local cancer patients in need with help in covering their most basic essentials, including groceries, gas, utilities, and rent for patients who are too sick to work.

“A lot of our patients are the very poor of the Coachella Valley that are now very sick,” says Sean Roberts, president of The Pendleton Foundation. “And when they have no other option to pay their rent and we’re able to say, ‘Yes, that rent is paid. Yes, your utilities will stay on,’ it’s a visible relief that is real.”

“It is truly a family here,” Selby says of BIGHORN and the spirit that has propelled BAM year after year. “When I was diagnosed, I received so many letters, calls, cards from friends, from people I had met BIGHORN and from some I didn’t even know. This caring group gave such an outpouring of support and I am so lucky to be part of it. Jerry Weintraub called and offered me anything I needed, down to his personal jet. And I hadn’t even met him. That’s just the kind of people who are here.”

BIGHORN BAM – 10 Years Strong

That outpouring hit a new milestone last year with the purchase of a second van that shuttles patients in need to and from their treatments. For Selby, the organization’s ability to have provided more than 8,500 round-trip rides for patients over the last nine years carries personal meaning. During her 10 months battling cancer, she met a woman named Alice while they were both undergoing treatment. When Alice missed several appointments, Selby learned that she relied solely upon public transit to reach the hospital by bus. “Our lives had crossed at that moment and it allowed me to see there was a great need,” she recalls. “Because of that, providing transportation to get patients to and from their chemo and radiation appointments has moved to the forefront of our fundraising efforts. Without safe, reliable transportation, they can’t get to treatment. Without treatment, they can’t get better. When you see a pink BAM van, you’ll know where it’s going!”

BIGHORN BAM (Behind A Miracle) team

After 10 extraordinary years, BAM remains different and unique in its approach and its results. While many non-profits struggle and strive to hit the million-dollar mark over the course of a decade, BAM has surpassed an astounding $6.5 million in fundraising and is stronger than ever in its efforts and its numbers.

The organization knows how every single cent is spent and it’s all spent within the Coachella Valley, on equipment and resources that benefit local patients. Eisenhower’s annual wish list, for example, only drives the organization even harder to fulfill it.

“When I was diagnosed, I knew nothing about breast cancer,” Selby shares. “Dr. Luke told me right off, ‘I’m not here to save your breasts, I’m here to save your life.’ I called UCLA, MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, and Cedars-Sinai. Their doctors all said they would do the exact same thing that he wanted to do. So here we are living in this tiny valley and you wonder if you’re getting the best care. I learned that yes, indeed I was getting the best care. Talk about peace of mind. That knowledge fostered my healing and helped me focus on the positive.” Selby’s first experience with Eisenhower’s staff and facilities became the first of many. Now, as founder of BAM, she has led an incomparable movement to give back. Ten years strong, BAM continues to improve care, save lives, and build a brighter future for breast care patients Valley-wide.

10-Year Projection: BAM at 20

In the next decade, BIGHORN BAM dedicates itself to:

  • Supporting Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center’s rise to becoming one of the top cancer centers in America.
  • Providing transportation to cancer patients Valley-wide who depend on public transportation to receive their treatments on the road to recovery.
  • Gifting additional funds to The Pendleton Foundation so they can ease even more of the financial burdens faced by cancer patients, who can then focus on their healing.
  • Encouraging other clubs to support BAM’s mission and help fund specific projects that they too can be proud of.
  • Continuing to make significant impacts in the diagnosis and treatment of local cancer patients by supporting organizations that host free mammogram days to the most underserved citizens.

BIGHORN BAM gives to causes

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