BY LESLIE VAN BUSKIRK
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JANA CRUDER
STYLING BY OLWEN ZARLENGO | October 31, 2014 | People
Each year, Vegas honors the women who honor our community, making a difference for the city's many deserving organizations. At our annual Vegas Gives event with the Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian and Palazzo, we celebrate the eight women who are giving back with all the grace and panache you would expect in Las Vegas.
Abstract Lurex striped tweed dress, J.Mendel ($2,200). 18k gold labradorite and aquamarine earrings, Nak Armstrong ($2,950). Vintage oxidized silver-dipped cuff, Aurélie Bidermann ($665)
For Kim Wagner, her involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, is truly a family affair. Earlier this year, when she and husband Dana, coanchors of News 3’s popular Wake Up with the Wagners morning show, took over as the official faces of Make-AWish Southern Nevada’s annual Walk for Wishes event, they also brought along their 9-year-old daughter, Kate. “I think the experience gives her a fuller, richer life,” says Wagner. “Hopefully, it makes her more appreciative and teaches her about compassion without her even being aware of it.” And in fact the five-kilometer walk, always held on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, is where Kate became fast friends with 9-year-old Amanda, who is battling myelodysplastic syndrome, the same often-deadly cancer that ABC anchor Robin Roberts had. “Amanda’s been in and out of the hospital numerous times in her young life,” Wagner says. “But she’s doing really well these days. Just knowing her has enriched all of our lives more than she’ll ever know!”
Asymmetrical black wool jersey dress, Stella McCartney ($1,165). Brown-and ice-diamond ring, Marroni Design ($7,390)
When attending the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s highly anticipated production of The Nutcracker next month—and enjoying the dazzling sets and lighter-than-air pirouettes—keep in mind that ticket revenue doesn’t fully pay the organization’s bills. As Audra Baldwin, who became involved with NBT four years ago and earlier this year was named vice president of its executive board, can tell you, a lot of fundraising goes into keeping the company’s dancers in tights.
Among other services, the ballet’s Future Dance program provides scholarships to 400 kids annually, offers free weekly classes in 11 elementary schools, and every year exposes more than 10,000 children to the art form by bringing them to performances. Baldwin has raised money for these initiatives in a variety of ways—by hosting a Lanvin fashion show at her house, for instance, and ensuring that the swanky annual Black & White Ball goes off without a hitch. But introducing kids of all socio economic backgrounds to dance doesn’t end there for her.
“One of our Future Dance scholars who hasn’t had the easiest home life, unfortunately, also endured the death of a parent in the last year,” she says. “And yet he never stopped dancing and still managed to perform in the ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker at the Smith Center. It made me realize that dance was his safe place and could help him get through this terrible time.”
Flare-fit cap-sleeved lace-inset dress, Valentino ($2,990). 18k yellow-gold rainbow moonstone long necklace ($18,120) and 18k rose-gold labradorite long necklace ($17,480), Irene Neuwirth. 18k yellow-gold Central Park leaf and vine hinged cuff, Aurélie Bidermann ($935)
Did you know that nearly 300,000 people right here in Clark County aren’t getting enough to eat on a regular basis? Or that 130,000 of them are children who often go to bed hungry? Diana Bennett, CEO of Paragon Gaming, does—and she’s doing something about it. As an ardent supporter of Three Square, a food bank and outreach program, she helps ensure that every year 35 million pounds of food reach those who need it.
“We also support what we call a backpack program,” says Bennett, a mother of three. “A lot of the kids can get breakfast and lunch at school, but they may not have much or anything at home for the weekend. So on Friday afternoon, they get a bag—or a backpack—full of groceries.”
Praise her for her deeds and Bennett demurs. “You know, I tell everyone that I get back so much more than I give, and it might sound trite, but it’s not. I try to convince people who don’t have a lot of money that they can still do something— give time, just make an effort—that will make a big difference in someone’s life.”
Poplin shirt ($1,295) and black leggings with lace stripe ($1,595), Azzedine Alaia. Cleo pearl necklace, Lanvin ($1,285)
“Sometimes it’s so easy just to get caught up in your own stuff—your own work, your own problems,” says Judi Perez, “but helping someone else brings you back down to earth.” For Perez, executive vice president of The Siegel Group, a real estate development company, the best cure for self-absorption is getting involved with After-School All-Stars, which provides more than 6,000 Las Vegas–area children with after-school activities that keep them safe and busy. “A lot of kids don’t have anywhere to go when school ends for the day,” she explains. “We provide academic and enrichment programs for them—sports, music, art, things that a lot of schools just don’t provide anymore because they’re underfunded.”
The ultimate goal of After-School All-Stars, which will mark its 20th anniversary next year, is to keep kids in high school, get them into college, then hope they pay it forward. But as Perez says, “Right now it’s just important that they know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Rainbow moonstone gold hoop earrings, Nak Armstrong ($3,135). Susan crystal chain-link necklace ($1,385) and Susan crystal chain-link bracelet ($995), Lanvin
Its efforts in providing help, hope, and healing to victims of sexual assault are just as needed now as they were when The Rape Crisis Center was founded 40 years ago. Recent statistics revealing that one in three women in the military and one in five women in college are victims attest to the critical urgency of the situation. Amy Ayoub, a public-speaking coach, began volunteering at the center a few years ago after attending a Denim Day event in Las Vegas. (Denim Day was named for a case in Italy in which a rape conviction was overturned because the court felt that the victim’s tight jeans were a factor.) “Our attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto, was a speaker, and she talked about a bill regarding sex trafficking,” recalls Ayoub. After a pause, she adds, “I’m a survivor of sex trafficking.” While she doesn’t go into details, Ayoub says her own ordeal gives her insight into the plight of other victims. “I feel that the pain and shame that I experienced is something that we connect with—it’s something not everyone can understand. I feel like I get released every time I help someone else.”
Black lace ruffle-front dress, Nina Ricci ($1,535). Organic feather earrings, Aurélie Bidermann ($935). 18k rose-gold ring, Irene Neuwirth ($3,630)
For Liz Kaplan, the decision to join forces with Keep Memory Alive was personal. “One of my best friends married into a family who carry Huntington’s,” she explains, referring to the hereditary brain disease that leads to dementia. “She’s seen how it destroys lives and she knows that her own children may end up with it. So anything I can do to try and help? Of course, I’m there.”
Keep Memory Alive, which fosters awareness about brain disorders and raises funds for research and treatment, is partnered with the renowned Cleveland Clinic, which opened the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas four years ago. “As more of the population is aging and living longer, brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia will affect us more,” says Kaplan. “But I know for a fact that cutting-edge research is being done by some of the best doctors and scientists in the world—which is exactly what gives me so much hope for the future.”
Flared sleeveless dress, Azzedine Alaia ($4,140)
A corporate attorney specializing in gaming and real estate, Abbie Friedman has been deeply involved in philanthropy since the beginning of her now 30-year career. Among other things, she’s a member of the United Way’s Tocqueville Society and is dedicated to working with Birthright, the highly regarded nonprofit organization that sends young people on heritage trips to Israel. But perhaps none of her charitable endeavors gives Friedman as much satisfaction as helping to change the lives of children through the Shane Victorino Foundation. “Our work has impacted thousands of children around the country,” she says of the organization founded by her friend Shane Victorino, the Boston Red Sox superstar who lives in Las Vegas during the off-season. “In Philadelphia, the foundation contributed nearly $1 million toward updating a century-old Boys & Girls Club in an impoverished area. In Hawaii, it’s provided programs like an annual baseball clinic, after-school tutoring, literacy classes, and mentoring to at-risk teens.”
As a member of the foundation’s board of advisors, Friedman helps to raise much-needed funds through golf tournaments, dinners, and auctions. “In Las Vegas, we host an annual toy drive and holiday party for kids who are facing homelessness, poverty, and other crises,” she says, noting that being involved has made a difference in her own life as well. “I get to see firsthand the changes that these funds and the resulting facilities can make in children’s lives.”
Leopard jacquard cinched-waist full-skirted dress ($3,985) and Nalayr tubular bangles ($695 each), Lanvin
When Heather DiChiaro moved from Westchester County, just north of Manhattan, to Las Vegas a little more than four years ago, one of the things that helped her settle in was becoming involved with The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. “It made me feel very welcome,” she says. “I’m Jewish, my husband isn’t, but it’s very important to me not to lose sight of my heritage, especially with what’s happening now in Israel.”
The federation donated nearly $2 million last year to fund a number of programs, from camp scholarships for young people to outreach assistance for seniors. It also sends much-needed money overseas—to pay for educational materials for a kindergarten in Poland, for example, or meals for children in Eastern Europe.
As a member of the organization’s Women’s Philanthropy Council, DiChiaro, a mother of three, helps to raise funds in a variety of ways. This past spring she hosted the annual United Luncheon at Venetian, and she’s planning the Pomegranate Society evening event, which will take place next February. She’s also looking forward to participating in this winter’s Heart to Heart Mission, bringing women from all over the US to Israel for a week of hands-on experiences. “I think it’s going to be very inspiring,” DiChiaro says. “Being connected to my heritage has been an emotional experience for me—and I mean that in a good way!”
All fashion and accessories courtesy of Barneys New York, Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian and Palazzo