Discovery museum

CEO of Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert gives back with joy


For Cindy burreson, a passion for volunteering has always been in her heart.

Burreson, who is CEO of the Discovery Museum of the Children of the Desert, supports organizations, issues and people who are deeply meaningful in her life. She gives back so generously that she was selected by the Angel Light Academy as one of Coachella Valley 2021s Above and beyond the winners.

Raised by a single mother, Burreson was an after-school “Y” kid. “We did our homework at the YMCA and had some snacks,” she said. “There was safe transportation from school. We were well looked after. Looking back, I realized how important the YMCA is to my mother. That’s why I volunteer for them now. I also volunteer now to set an example for my own children. “

But Burreson’s journey as a volunteer almost ended before it started. “As a youngster, I volunteered for the Special Olympics“she said.” I went to training. I was going to be a liaison for a gymnastics team. When I stopped that morning and all the athletes were walking around, I started to cry. I thought, ‘This is too overwhelming for me. I don’t know if I can do a good job. I called my mom. She said, ‘You signed up for this. You are there to make a difference. So get out of your car and do it. ‘”

She did it.

Angel Light Academy founders Julia and Richard Wilmot pose with winner Cindy Burreson at the Above & Beyond Awards on Saturday, October 9, 2021.

“It was so rewarding,” she said. “To have these athletes who were absolutely unfiltered, completely outspoken and completely vulnerable opened my eyes. They supported each other so much whether they were on the same team or not. It was so beautiful. was one of the best days. And I think that really kicked off my philanthropy. “

She became a friend in the Best Friends Program, where volunteers are matched with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “We would get together, prepare recipes, go on excursions, see a movie or just talk on the phone,” she said.

Burreson remembers her mother donating part of her salary to the United Way. “She told me who that helps,” she said. “So I volunteer there too. She was a night reader of the United Way of the Desert during the pandemic, reading stories to children several times a night, sometimes “dressed as a unicorn”.

She has also been a speaker for Sheltered from the storm for victims of domestic violence. “I was in a very violent relationship for about five years, starting in my senior year in high school,” she said. “For me, it’s about sharing how you don’t need to see yourself as a victim. You can go through that and find your joy. If I can help a young girl or woman out of this situation or to feel stronger is my responsibility. “

She also feels responsible for inspiring a spirit of volunteerism at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, by creating the “Little Kids, Big Impact” program. “We have a fundraiser every month to benefit a different non-profit organization across the valley,” she said. “We encourage parents to involve their children in the philanthropic process. Some younger ones donate a portion of their allowance. Some help select donation items and deliver them personally. They all receive praise and thanks.”

Sylvia Tenorio, President of the Friends of the Indio Senior Center, with CEO of the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert, Cindy Burreson, and Executive Director, Lexi Fife.  Burreson and Fife delivered 500 handmade Christmas cards created by children in the museum

This year’s program included a toy drive for East Valley families in partnership with Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation (PUCDC) and the Coachella Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“We also made handmade cards for the Senior Indio Friends Center“she said.” In September, we collected blankets for pediatric cancer patients.

“I am a very cheerful person and I want everyone around me to be cheerful and happy and have their best life,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of money to give, but I have time and heart. And I think that’s just as precious.

“I think we all have different talents, whether it’s crafting, leading, listening or cooking,” she said. “There are a myriad of things you can help with. Follow your heart. Find what resonates within you. Make it work for others.”

Reflecting on her honor of Angel Light Academy, she thought of the many organizations she has supported. “What really touched me was how I touched so many lives,” she said.

“If I hadn’t made this speech for Shelter from the Storm, maybe this girl would still be in a bad relationship.” she said. “If I hadn’t bought gifts for a toy drive, maybe a child wouldn’t have had a gift this morning. If I hadn’t read a book at night, maybe a mom wouldn’t have been able to spend family time with her other struggling kids. “

“You never realized the depth of volunteering in these days,” she said. “And the effect that is having on people is more immense than you might think.”

Barbara Kerr is a freelance communications specialist with a passion for writing about people, the arts and special events. Inducted into the Dayton, Ohio Area Broadcasting Hall of Fame, she is the 2021 Past President of the PRSA College of Fellows.