| November 24, 2017 | Lifestyle
Here’s a look at the charities that are having a big impact, the events that are celebrating big anniversaries and the people who are helping make the magic happen.
“Go out into the world, get the best education possible, bring back the best of what you learn and help make Las Vegas a better place.” Alexandra Epstein recalls hearing those words in grade school and has made them her mantra. Epstein has kept the torch of Vegas history aflame through her job in the family business as executive manager of the historic El Cortez Hotel & Casino, as well as in her past work with the Neon Museum. Yet her current cause is focused on the future, the still-in-the-planning-stages Art Museum at Symphony Park. “Cultural institutions are often the backbone of communities, serving as gathering places to uplift, inspire and educate,” she says, noting the success of the Tilting the Basin exhibit in the Arts District earlier this year, as well as LVAM partnerships with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library and First Friday that are building an audience even before the doors open.
It’s a cornerstone luncheon of the Vegas social community: Each spring, Flair for Care offers a chance to indulge your love for fashion, food and festivity—and for a fabulous cause, no less. “We look forward to our largest annual fundraiser event benefiting the hospice’s uncompensatedcare program,” says Nathan Adelson Hospice president and CEO Carole Fisher. Held in a ballroom at Wynn over a leisurely lunch, it’s also an opportunity to do a little “shopping” at the auction, take in a fashion show by the likes of Pucci or Etro, and catch up with friends—and compliment their chicest spring outfits. If the luncheon feels frivolous, remember that you’re also helping fund the $1 million in uncompensated medical care that the hospice provides each year.
It is rare for a charity to break new ground with the services it provides, but that is what Southern Nevada’s The Shade Tree did when it became the only shelter in the country to open a boarding facility so victims of domestic violence could bring their pets. Noah’s Animal House was founded a decade ago by Staci Alonso of Station Casinos, and its anniversary is being marked in two ways: First, Sen. Dean Heller has co-sponsored federal legislation called the PAWS Act that provides funding to shelters that welcome victims of domestic violence and their pets, and second, Noah’s is opening a new shelter. “As we’re getting ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary event in Las Vegas, we will be opening our doors in Northern Nevada,” says Lori Nelson of Noah’s Animal House. That event, an Animal House-themed party, was held Nov. 17 at Red Rock Resort.
Water comes to the desert with gowned celebrities, painted performers and a magician’s box of tricks. “We feel very fortunate One Night for One Drop can take place in the entertainment and imaginative mecca that is Las Vegas,” says Pien Koopman, communications manager for the charity devoted to clean-water issues. Centered on the theatrical expertise of Cirque du Soleil and studded with guest stars from John Legend to Carrot Top, the annual one-night-only show helps fund projects in 11 countries and also has local impact, such as supporting the new WaterWorks exhibit at Springs Preserve. The sixth annual One Drop event is set for March 2, 2018, at Mandalay Bay. “It will be inspired by the life and music of the artist Jewel, who will also perform in the show,” Koopman says. Only in Vegas indeed.
Marla Letizia’s business acumen as the founder and CEO of the mobile billboards company Big Traffic has earned her plenty of kudos and numerous awards over the years. “What comes with that is the expectation that you will reach out to those that you have an influence over and ask them to support the organization,” she says. But she’s also learned a great deal from community service, adding, “The capacity and the opportunities that you have to work with people that aren’t in your usual circle of influence often enable you to be more successful in business as well.” Chief among the organizations Letizia has devoted her time and expertise to is Jewish Nevada, of which she was recently named board chair. As to future plans for the group, she says Jewish Nevada remains focused on “our mission of being a world-class 21st century modern Jewish community.”
There are many events in Las Vegas at which to see and be seen, but the one that really lights up the flashbulbs is Keep Memory Alive’s Power of Love Gala, benefiting the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “The mission has not changed but the event has changed dramatically, from very small dinners with 200 to 300 people to a gala for 2,000 people with star-studded entertainment,” says the center’s founder, Larry Ruvo. Among the legends who have performed at the gala over the past 21 years are Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett and U2. “The gala is an enormous amount of work, but the funds are needed,” Ruvo says. “It provides over a million dollars a year in funding.” Luckily, the event inspires extravagant generosity— Andre Agassi wrote a check for $1 million last year. Whatever it takes to keep memory alive.
For over three decades, the Black & White Ball has been “where Las Vegas’ most fashionable come together to support the arts,” says NBT executive director and CEO Beth Barbre. The event raises funds for and awareness of “our professional company, our affiliated Academy and the important work we do with our education and outreach programs that impact over 20,000 students a year, including at-risk youth,” she adds. The list of past NBT honorees includes Debbie Reynolds, Ann-Margret, Bette Midler and Chita Rivera. “We look for someone who has elevated the performing arts landscape [and] has made significant strides philanthropically,” Barbre says. Next year’s gala will be held at Wynn Jan. 27. Start preparing your stunning, high-contrast ensemble now.
For some celebrities, fundraising for charity is limited to gala appearances. But the relationship between Britney Spears and the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation is a deeper one. “When she started her show here, she was looking to connect with a local organization helping local kids,” says Stephanie Parker, vice president and director of marketing and development for the NVCCF. “It’s been an amazing partnership ever since. She has given $1 from every ticket sold to her show.” And the over $1 million Spears has raised—along with other donations—has a physical manifestation in the NVCCF’s new facility, which provides services and support for cancer patients and their families. The bright, spacious building devotes 16,000 square feet of space to motivational programs, crafting, massage therapy and art therapy.
For nearly two decades, Tiger Woods’ Tiger Jam events have put the fun in fundraising, supporting educational programs while providing nonstop entertainment for attendees. Tiger Jam is a whirlwind of events throughout the MGM Grand property, including Tiger’s Poker Night, a golf outing to Shadow Creek golf course and a dinner concert—maybe even an after-party too. “It’s something we can only do in Vegas. I can’t imagine doing this anywhere else,” says Rick Singer, president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation. While the event began with arena-size shows by the likes of Prince and No Doubt, over the past few years, the musical performances have been intimate, poolside concerts by Ed Sheeran or Darius Rucker.
“We know how to push the envelope, which results in a better situation for our clients,” says Dawn Hume, CEO and chief events officer of Social Gal Events. She’s planned benefits ranging from CIS Nevada’s Today for Tomorrow Gala to the Animal Foundation’s Best in Show event. Hume was formerly director of special events for the Mirage, Bellagio and Wynn resorts, which has given her insight that she still uses. “We always know things that can be done at these properties,” she says. Are there any events that particularly stand out in her memory? “It’s almost like a boyfriend— everyone has something you love about them,” she says with a laugh. Whether it’s a gala, a charity benefit or an intimate dinner, Hume takes it off her clients’ hands: “It’s all about guest experience—and that includes the people throwing the party.”