Thankful in Vegas --
The City of Lights and Big Hearts
BY STRIPLV STAFF
Las Vegas is a land of plenty, not only with amazing talent – onstage, in the kitchens, and throughout the casino spectacles both inside and out on the Strip – but this Entertainment Capital of the World is also where philanthropy abounds. Las Vegas performers entertain us night after night, showing us their amazing talents, and the casinos are always providing entertainment for us – bringing joy to our out-of-town company. Yet the people of Las Vegas receive much more. The Las Vegas community is blessed with big hearts that give back in abundance. This year we say a special “Thank you,” to all those who have donated their time, money and efforts to making this a fantastic city. “Thank you,” to those that follow in their generous footsteps, and to the many, many more who simply couldn’t fit on these pages.
Penn & Teller, the magicians at the Rio, are devoted supporters of three different charities in Las Vegas. They donate their time, talents and resources to help make a difference at Opportunity Village, Aid for Aids of Nevada, and United Blood Services. Penn raised almost $1,000,000 for Opportunity Village with his appearances on “Celebrity Apprentice”. Every year they lead the Penn & Teller Challenge team during the AFAN Aids Walk Las Vegas, and match all money raised by their team. They also host the “13 Bloody Days of Christmas” with United Blood Services, where blood donors receive two complimentary tickets to their show.
Andre Agassi is probably the most charitable athlete of his generation. He founded the Andre Agassi Charitable Association in 1994, and opened his College Preparatory Academy in 2001 (a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children). In 2009, the graduating class had 100% graduation rate. Through his foundation, he supports other child-related programs such as Child Haven, and his Boys and Girls Club that boasts a tennis team and a basketball program.
Mac King, comedy-magician at Harrah’s, loves to laugh, but takes literacy very seriously. He is a devoted advocate of childhood education, launching “Mac King’s Magical Literacy Tour” to promote childhood literacy, providing more reading opportunities for underprivileged children. King partners with local business to arrange book drives, and visits Vegas schools to read stories, perform a few tricks, and deliver a book to each child to take home.
Murray Sawchuck, his wife Chloe Crawford and onstage sidekick Doug “Lefty” Leferovich support The Humane Society. An August Red Carpet, and a show: “Beggin’ for Magic” that followed, gave all the profits to the Friends for Life Humane Society. It is a non-profit, no-kill-facility that ensures dogs a quality of life and works to find adoptees for the pets.
Recycled Percussion, the performers who got their start on “America’s Got Talent”, and put on a rockin’ show at The Quad, often donate their time and money to helping people in need. They support Nevada’s homeless shelters and recently showed up with a check for $3,100 to give to The Shade Tree Shelter, an organization that provides safe shelters to homeless and abused women and children in crisis.
George Wallace, comedian at Flamingo Las Vegas, devotes his time to the foster care division of the Clark County Department of Family Services. In addition to spending time with the children, Wallace donates toys, show tickets and gift certificates to local businesses.
Scott “Carrot Top” Thompson, who gives us sidesplitting laughs at the Luxor, supports many charities. He has given a $55,000 gift to Ronald McDonald House, and now has donated a pink guitar signed by 30 famous people to an auction for the Susan B. Komen Foundation. Supporting the young kids that have lost their hair due to chemo is another. One year, he was attending St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s annual event that is held in Vegas. The press wanted Carrot Top to talk to them and get photo ops, but he asked all the reporters to go away, that this wasn’t about him. He said it was about this little girl who was very nervous about getting her head shaved and he held her hand the whole time they were shaving her hair off.
Jeff Civillico, the comedy-juggler who performs death-defying acts of juggling knives, chainsaws, and bowling balls during his show at The Quad, dedicates his time and efforts to his own nonprofit organization. His company, Win-Win Entertainment, matches professional entertainers willing to donate their time and talent with eligible, approved charities. The Shade Tree Shelter, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, and the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth have all benefitted.
Adam Steck, producer and CEO of SPI Entertainment said his show, RockTellz & CockTails has partnered with the GRAMMY Foundation (established in 1989, to give the gift of music to so many deserving young adults through schools across the country). Grammy Award-winning musician and acclaimed actor, Meat Loaf, premiered at Planet Hollywood doing the RockTellz & CockTails in September. A portion of every ticket sold to RockTellz & CockTails will go directly to the GRAMMY Foundation.
Elton John’s show at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace is called “The Million Dollar Piano,” but some say they should call Elton “The Man with a Million Dollar Heart.” Elton has been passionate about curing AIDS and founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation, whose aim is to prevent, educate, and provide care and support services to those living with HIV/AIDS. He has raised over $200 million to support the HIV/AIDS programs in 55 countries and has reached close to 5 million people.
Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari, a professional poker player, made history when he outmaneuvered 48 millionaires and billionaires to win the richest payday in poker tournament history at the Rio during the 2012 World Series of Poker. Each of the players brought a cool $1,000,000 to the event. Esfandiari took the top prize of $18,346,673. A portion of the pot, ($5.3 million), went to One Drop, a nonprofit organization that fights poverty by supporting access to safe water.
Donny & Marie, the singing sibling superstars at the Flamingo Las Vegas are big supporters of the Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals, which include 170 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada. They are additionally passionate about Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, a local organization whose goal is to improve the quality of life for critically ill children and their families. Donny also hosts the Danny Gans Memorial Champions Run for Life, a 1-mile walk/run to raise funds for children with life-threatening diseases.
Celine Dion, the iconic voice and performer at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, has been a supporter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for more than 30 years. She began her own organization, Celine Dion Foundation, in 1999, to help support various charitable organizations and medical foundations with a focus on helping sick and underprivileged children.
Frank Marino and his cast of Divas Las Vegas at The Quad contribute to the Make-A-Wish Foundation through proceeds from the sale of merchandise, such as Divas Las Vegas t-shirts, fans, and “Dining with the Diva” cookbooks, which are all sold after their show and the proceeds are donated to help grant wishes to children diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.
Anthony Cools, hypnotist at Paris Las Vegas, uses his celebrity clout to raise money for Olive Crest, an organization that transforms the lives of abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families. With his fans’ help, Cools has donated over $12,000 to Olive Crest.
Shania Twain, pop-country songstress at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, works with her charity, Shania Kids Can, providing children with the opportunity to overcome challenges such as poverty, abuse, or an overall dysfunctional family lifestyle. It aims to help educators identify the at-risk children, provide a safe environment for kids to learn and develop, provide nutritious food and snacks, and teach practical life and social skills.
A fundraiser was held in honor of Sarah Guyard-Guillot, the Cirque du Soleil “Ka” performer who fell to her death during a June performance. Performers from all over the Strip came together to raise money for her family – even those that didn’t know Guyard-Guillot showed their support.
Las Vegas Restaurant Week, now in its 7th year, gives restaurants in Las Vegas the opportunity to give back through the culinary arts. The restaurants create menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner and select a portion of each purchase to be donated to Three Square Food Bank. Three Square is dedicated to fighting hunger here in Vegas.
Barrett-Jackson Auctions have been held annually in Vegas over the past six years, in which all fees and commissions on charity vehicles are waived, donating 100% of the proceeds to benefit a variety of foundations that include children, the military, medical research and many other important causes. This year’s 2012 Mustang Shelby GT500 red, white and blue “Super Snake” – a salute to our Military and their families – went up for bid at Mandalay Bay Event Center and sold for $500k, all to benefit the Wounded Warriors Family Support charity. The last in the list, but far from the least, Barrett-Jackson’s Auction in Vegas has been an enormous benefit to many in need. Siegfried and Roy appeared at the event to accept this year’s charitable donation from Barrett-Jackson.