Updated: Dec 11, 2020
There were many notable non-profit organizations that received financial support, but for the sake of not going on and on, I will discuss the Meals on Wheels partnership as it proved that money has no religion.
This partnership had the making of a match made in heaven. First the woman that ran the Meals on Wheels of America was the former press secretary for Ronald Reagan. Political affiliation, check. Second, Harrah’s charitable giving focus was identified to be seniors not children like everyone else, check. Third, the company had a sponsorship with the AJ Foyt racing family in the NASCAR series. What better way to make a national media splash than a partnership with Meals on “Wheels” with the sponsorship of the companies NASCAR team, check. Where do I sign up? Yep, in comes the next job. I’m going to put this relationship together. This included; ordering 20 hot and cold delivery trucks, wrapping them as a moving billboard of the support from Harrah’s Entertainment, having them delivered to the location, coordinating the Foyt family appearances at each event to include the delivery of an actual Nascar to be driven at the event as a publicity stunt, coordination with the local police department to escort the Nascar through the city streets to make a few deliveries to local seniors who benefit from the services of Meals on Wheels, coordination with the local Meals on Wheels organizations and coordination of the local gaming property to have employee and customer autograph signings. My partner in crime (Dawn Christensen) handled the media outreach prior to the event and supported me in the coordination at the event.
Meals on Wheels was established by Catholic Charities, who is dedicated to addressing senior hunger and isolation in 5,000 communities across the country. To kick off the partnership another publicity stunt was needed to continually illustrate to political officials the dedication of Harrah’s Entertainment to giving back in the communities in which we operate our businesses, there is no better way to do this than at the kick off of the World Series of Poker at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Considering we were donating one million dollars to Meals on Wheels, we had to take every opportunity to get recognition. Notice I did not say awareness. It was recognition we were going after as remember we are fighting increased taxation of our business. And you thought we were doing this out of the goodness of our hearts? Not a chance. Let’s get back to the kick-off. We had to have someone represent Meals on Wheels to present the fake publicity check stunt and who better than Sister Mary of the local Las Vegas Meals on Wheels chapter. In she walks in her habit, through the Rio Hotel and Casino, into the World Series of Poker and up on stage. It was like a scene out of Sister Act. Sister Mary sure was a head turner. If you were there you know just as I did that you will never see that again in your lifetime, which is why I had to take the opportunity to write about this landmark experience in my life. As sinful as the gaming industry may be a charitable donation has no religious boundaries.
“ It was like a scene out of Sister Act.”
Although the recognition was what the company was looking for it gave me great pride in my role to give back to the communities even if it was not my personal money. It was my blood, sweat and tears that made it all happen. Just two twenty somethings making a difference in the world. And for this we were recognized by the Foundation of Women Executives in Public Relations with an Obelisk Award. The award is for social responsibility. I’m also very proud to say fifteen years later that Harrah’s Entertainment (now Caesar’s Entertainment) have continued our legacy to this worthy organization. They have now donated over 60 hot and cold delivery vehicles and are the largest contributor of Meals on Wheels of America. This makes me very proud to have started a legacy that has lived on, breaking the barriers of religion and gaming when everyone else thought it impossible. I bet those political officials have a harder time not believing the nuns across this great country about how the gaming industry impacts communities it operates in a positive way. And if you tax the gaming industry more, you take away the positive impact made in the communities they serve.
This experience along with the many other worthy charitable organization that donations were bestowed upon instilled charitable giving values in me after seeing firsthand the impacts these organization make in local communities that are many times overlooked. I have since passed down these values to my son that giving to others is more meaningful than having more for yourself. This experience is also where I meet the love of my life. The gentlemen who was managing the relationship with Foyt Racing was Ron Hicks, my life partner.