La Mesa News Briefs – March 24, 2017

New program serves uninsured in East County

On March 8, the Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) announced it awarded a $20,000 grant to Champions for Health, a local nonprofit that facilitates pro bono medical care for low-income, uninsured San Diegans.

Through its flagship program, Project Access San Diego (PASD), Champions for Health relies on a network of physician volunteers, hospitals, surgery centers and other ancillary partners to provide specialized medical services to the community’s most vulnerable population. This grant award from GHD will specifically support uninsured residents in the East County region.

“We are grateful for the support of the Grossmont Healthcare District and we value tremendously our partnership for the benefit of the community,” said Barbara Mandel, CEO, Champions for Health in a press release. “We believe Project Access is one of the most successful models in the country for providing access to specialty care to restore health to low-income, uninsured individuals in need of specialty medical care.”

Since PASD began in 2008, donated care provided by PASD volunteers and healthcare providers has exceeded $13 million in value, according Mandel.

“By addressing the health care needs of our community’s most vulnerable, Champions for Health serves people who are facing life-threatening or chronic medical conditions,” said Michael Emerson, 2017 GHD board president. “The care provided to the uninsured also reduces the strain on hospital emergency departments and other community health care centers.”

Mandel said a recent patient underwent a mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy, but did not qualify for reconstructive surgery since her insurance benefits had expired. In service to the patient, a PASD volunteer physician performed the reconstructive surgery pro bono, which restored the patient’s well-being and self-esteem.

In addition to PASD, other Champions for Health programs include free screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer and high blood pressure, along with flu immunizations, a speakers bureau and scholarships for medical students and residents planning to care for the medically underserved.

For more information, visit and 

Pageant winners crowned

On Saturday, March 4, the cities of La Mesa and Santee held their pageant to choose the 2017 Miss La Mesa, Miss Teen La Mesa, Miss Santee and Miss Teen Santee. The annual event was held in La Mesa at the new Helix Charter High School Theater.

La Mesa winners are Heather Bardin, who won the title of Miss La Mesa, and Alexis Smith, who won the title of Miss La Mesa Teen.

Bardin is a 22-year-old graduate of Gonzaga University where she received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minor in Business. She is currently working as an animal trainer for San Diego Pet Training.

(l to r) Miss Teen La Mesa Alexis Smith, Miss La Mesa Heather Bardin, Miss Santee Jennae Gonzalez and Miss Teen Santee Kamryn Correll (Courtesy of La Mesa Chamber of Commerce)

Smith is 15 years old and a graduate of Our Lady of Peace, and currently a sophomore at Valhalla High School. She is a member of the honor roll, is the multimedia editor on the yearbook staff and a member of the varsity water polo team.

The pageant program has been a tradition in the cities of La Mesa and Santee since the late 1960s and is intended to be a mentoring program for the young women who become ambassadors of their cities and also attend La Mesa Chamber of Commerce ribbon cuttings, mixers and assist the chamber at several signature events throughout the year.

Lake Murray music festival seeks donations 

The Lake Murray Fireworks and Music Fest has secured the permits required to bring back the July 4 event to Lake Murray Park.

The event planners are still looking for more donations to finish funding the festival.

Major donors so far include Stormberg Orthodontics ($15,000) and Life Deck ($1,000), with FBS Property Management and Windmill Farms pledging another $2,500 each.

Other major donors include Orchard Supply Hardware and Ideal Plumbing.

To hold both the music fest and the fireworks display, the fundraising committee hopes to raise $76,500. If the fundraising goal isn’t met, the event can be scaled to size.

Neighbors can contribute toward this family-friendly Fourth of July event by visiting the GoFundMe page at

All funds are tax deductible and are processed by the San Carlos Lake Murray Recreation Council (EIN: 26-3688156.)

If you would like to make a financial donation to this 501(c)(3) organization, make your check payable to Lake Murray Fireworks and send to:

Lake Murray Fireworks C/O SCAC

Attn: Tracy Dahlkamp

PO Box 19246

San Diego, CA  92159

For more information, visit

Nominate a beautiful yard

La Mesa Beautiful (LMB) is seeking nominations for its annual Spirit Awards. Residences, multi-family housing units, businesses, nonprofits or public buildings with noteworthy landscaping can all be nominated for awards.

The criteria in which they are judged include: Use of color, use of design, draught tolerance and low water use. After winners are chosen, they are awarded at a special luncheon held by LMB at a date not yet announced.

To nominate a yard, please send in the ballot on Page 17 of this publication.

La Mesans to receive University of San Diego Alumni Awards

Two La Mesa residents will be honored by the University of San Diego on April 22.

Marsha McDonald, a retired guidance counselor for the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, and Navy Nurse CAPT. (sel.) Heather C. King will each receive the Author E. Hughes Award for Career Achievement.

McDonald earned a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling, and a pupil personnel services credential from the USD School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) in 1986.

She helped originate a comprehensive elementary guidance program in the La Mesa district, working at seven different schools for 27 years before retiring in 2013.

An advocate for early intervention and prevention, she provided individual and group counseling, along with classroom lessons and parent workshops. She served on the six-member district crisis team and implemented Peace Builders, a peer conflict resolution group.

In addition, McDonald originated an East County support group for parents of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder children, which she facilitated for 18 years. She also helped train more than 1,000 staff members in the Understanding Poverty program.

“Marsha has used the knowledge and skills she acquired at SOLES to improve the health, welfare and educational achievement of thousands of children and we are very proud to honor her lifelong work,” said Nicholas Ladany, dean of the USD School of Leadership and Education Sciences in a press release.

After retirement, McDonald has continued to work with community groups aiding low-income schools. She also enjoys traveling and spending time with her family.

King earned her Ph.D. from the USD Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science in 2014. As a member of the Navy Nurse Corps, she has provided anesthetic care to veterans in a variety of settings. Her clinical experience fueled her research interest as she examines gaps in care for returning combat veterans.

At USD, she conducted a pilot feasibility study to examine the effects of acupuncture on sleep disturbances for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She is currently serving as the director of Nursing Research for the Navy Medicine West Region that includes all bases in California, Washington, Hawaii, Okinawa and Guam.

“Captain King’s critically important work represents the deep commitment that USD nursing graduates have to make sure veterans receive the care they deserve, and we are very proud to honor her,” said Sally Brosz Hardin, dean of the USD Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.


  1. mike w says:

    It is suggested for this periodical to write its own version/context about:

    what KGTV now reported. The “fireworks” to appear there. “After 5 years” of no such occurring. (why else than?) Because of the previous events, it was said that the remains were “dropping in the lake” — as some of the water is used as drinking water.
    I suggest that “La Mesa Courier” make its own version of this controversy. As Lake Murray be within the area covered by “La Mesa Courier” more narrowly, than of “KGTV.”

  2. […] to bringing the festival back [“News Briefs: Lake Murray music festival seeks donations,” and “Final funding push for festival,” […]

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