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Doctors with a heart to raise money for fire victims

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
February 2, 2018

A local Rohnert Park doctor is opening her doors to the Doctors with a Heart program, a fundraiser event that allows doctors to donate monetary funds to a charity of their choosing, and this time around Venus Ann Maher is choosing to donate all proceeds from her upcoming February fundraising campaign to Sonoma County fire victims, a tragedy that is close to her heart after seeing numerous friends and neighbors lose their homes in the October firestorm.

Maher, who has been working with Doctors with a Heart for over 20 years, is slated to provide chiropractic sessions all throughout February, where 100 percent of the proceeds from the services and donations will be donated to the Community Foundation Sonoma County Resilience Fund. While the Redwood Credit Union provides short term relief and works with fundraisers, the resilience fund works in providing long-term support for fire victims. The Doctors with a Heart participant will offer her services for free and patients will be encouraged to make a donation.

She says she became interested in working with Doctors with a Heart early on in her career since the program involves one of her favorite life goals,    helping and caring for people who need it the most.

“What I like to do in my life is things that I can totally believe in that match my heart, where everybody wins and it is really heartwarming for me to be part of,” Maher said. “But the hardest part of it is picking which project to work on.”

In the past, Maher has worked in holding fundraisers for women and children centered non-profits and charities such as COTS, Habitat for Humanity, Redwood Empire food bank and woman and children shelters.

Yet with the recent devastating wildfires that wiped out several thousand homes throughout Sonoma County, leaving countless homeless, Maher felt the need to help the people of Sonoma County in the form of the Doctors with a Heart fundraiser.

While Maher did not lose her Crane Canyon home, her property was threatened twice during the fires and she also had to evacuate and stay at a friends house for seven days while crews battled the relentless fires.  

“I feel really strongly about fire relief and rebuilding because it could have very easily been me. I could have been on the other side of that fire and I could be saying, ‘I need help.’ There are 28 people I know between church and my patients who were affected,” Maher explained.

The strong sense of helpfulness and compassion that seems to come with Maher’s bubbly personality also shone through on that frightful October night. She said when she first got the call around 2:30 in the morning about the fire she immediately started calling neighbors and patients, warning them about the fire and telling them to get out.

“We have one exit and there are 50 something homes (at Crane Canyon), so when I got the call I made 50 calls in an hour and each neighbor I told to get out and we networked to get everyone out and I also called my patients,” Maher said. “It was horrendous... I feel like my brain didn’t work for two days and I never want to live through that again.”

Despite the emotional and physical scars that the fire may have left behind, Maher said that these next few years will be important for supporting those who have lost their homes and that we should help people rebuild their lives as much as we can.

So Maher has her fundraising goal set at $1,000, which she hopes will make a difference.

“With the fire I have that feeling that we need to really band together,” she said. “My intention is that we who have need to show up for those who do not have and that’s always been the Doctors with a Heart goal.

Doctors with a Heart first started in 1986 by an Iowa dentist, Duane Schmidt, who saw the need to help those less fortunate in the community and dentists, medical doctors, psychologists and osteopaths.

When asked if other local doctors or dentists participate in the program, she said she didn’t know of any, however, the Sebastopol Eye Clinic did take part in the program years ago.

The Voice reached out to several Rohnert Park dentistry officers to see if they have ever done Doctors with a Heart fundraisers however, they did not comment in time for publication.

Maher’s fundraiser kicked off Feb. 1 and for more information visit or call (707) 792-0202.