By Howard T. Brody

When you think of Las Vegas, charity is probably the very last thing you would think of. But the fact is that the city known to take, take, take gives back when it comes to charities and charitable causes, and Sin City somehow transforms into the City of Saints. Okay, so maybe “Saints” is pushing it a bit, but a little-known fact about our fair little city is that for decades the movers and shakers of Las Vegas have been giving to those less fortunate and they do so in a big way.

For example, this past August and September, Steve Wynn, the chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts, whose net worth is $3.1 billion, pledged $3.75 million each ($7.5M total) to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Typhoon Hato in Macau. While the 75-year-old Wynn noted that his company had employees in the two locations that were impacted by the natural disasters, and some speculated that’s what prompted the donations, way before that very public display of compassion, Wynn and ex-wife Elaine had the Wynn Foundation. The foundation underwrote many local causes that benefited a large number of residents. Back in 2011, when Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. and just as the holidays were getting underway, Wynn gave a $2 million donation in the form of $500 bank gift cards to 4,000 families through the United Way of Southern Nevada. Today Wynn Resorts has the Wynn Employee Foundation, which raises funds from employees, encourages volunteerism and gives them the chance to give back to their city. They focus on education, community assistance, and cultural enrichment.

But Steve and his ex-wife aren’t the only generous donors in Las Vegas. Dr. Miriam Adelson and her husband Sheldon, the chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation (the biggest casino company in America according to Forbes) who has a net worth of $35.4 billion, comprise the leadership of the Adelson Family Foundation. Although the foundation primarily focuses its support on programs that benefit the State of Israel and the Jewish people there and throughout the U.S., the Adelsons fund ongoing medical research in the areas of immunology, neurology and oncology thorough what the foundation claims are groundbreaking and innovative collaborative research models. Dr. Miriam Adelson has devoted time to researching and treating drug abuse as well as the biology of addiction. The foundation has established drug treatment facilities in both Las Vegas and Tel Aviv.

When David Siegel, the president and chief executive officer of Westgate Resorts, and his wife Jackie lost their 18-year-old daughter Victoria to a drug overdose in 2015, it prompted Siegel to take action. Although Florida is officially their home, their presence in Las Vegas is significant. With a net worth according to Forbes of $4.9 billion, Siegel created Victoria’s Voice Foundation in his daughter’s memory. The foundation actively works to raise awareness about substance abuse, helping youths and families in overcoming experimentation and addiction.

“My singular mission is saving lives, so we don’t lose our future generation. I don’t want other families to go through what we went through, to lose what we lost. My daughter’s life may have been short, but her impact will be tremendous. Victoria’s voice will be heard, and lives will be saved,” writes Siegel on the Victoria’s Voice Foundation website.

Even the current mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, and her husband the former mayor, Oscar Goodman, are charitable proponents. The two have been active in the city’s civic affairs for decades and will participate in just about any charity fundraiser. Back in 2014, for example, Carolyn and noted “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” celebrity pitchman Robin Leach took a ride on SlotZilla, the Freemont Street Experience zip line, all in the name of charity. Oscar regularly hosts charitable dinners for a number of organizations. But if you truly want to know how big of a heart the Goodmans have, look no further than the four children they have adopted. Now adults – Oscar Jr., 47; Ross, 47; Eric, 46 and Cara, 44 – all were adopted through local Catholic charities shortly after they were born.

From 1973 to 2010 “The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon,” raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of which Lewis served as the national chairman. Although the telethon started seven years earlier in New York, it didn’t get the national attention until it made a move to Las Vegas as the stars from both Hollywood and the Vegas shows came out to support the charitable cause. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Liza Minnelli, and scores of others were regular performers on the telethon.

Las Vegas charities continue to serve the community with one of the most notable being Opportunity Village. Founded in 1954, Opportunity Village today serves nearly 2,000 adults and is Nevada’s largest private, not-for-profit community rehabilitation program. Opportunity Village supports these adults through advocacy, art and life skill enrichment, community job placement, social recreation programs, and vocational training.

Project 150 is a non-profit that started in 2011 when a local news station reported on the 150 homeless students that were attending Rancho High School. Upon further investigation, Clark County schools had an estimated 7,500 homeless high school students at the time. The goal of Project 150 is to help these students so that they can stay in school, graduate and learn life skills needed to put them on a pathway to success.

Shade Tree is a shelter for women and children that are victims of violence and was established in 1990 in the basement of a church. Generous donations from the citizens of Las Vegas have made it the largest 24-hour accessible shelter designed for the needs of women and children. Shade Tree provides over 100,000 nights of sanctuary per year.

For those who live here in Las Vegas, it’s not unusual to see the local stars out and about doing charitable work throughout the year and raising awareness for their favorite not-for-profits. Wayne Newton, Penn and Teller, Carrot Top, Lance Burton, Louie Anderson, Rich Little, as well as many others all volunteer their time to a number of charities that help both people and animals.

So, the next time you’re here in Las Vegas to enjoy all the things that give Sin City its nickname, just remember that among all the sinners are quite a number of saints too.

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