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How a $6M phone call rescued a Las Vegas charity

Updated December 2, 2022 - 5:16 pm

A few weeks ago at Opportunity Village’s annual Camelot gala, organization CEO Bob Brown motioned toward a table mate and said, “There’s the man who saved Opportunity Village during COVID.”

Brown was gesturing to Nevada State Bank CEO and president Terry Shirey. It was Shirey who returned Brown’s call for help in assuring a Paycheck Protection Program loan as OV shut down operations.

It was a $6 million phone call.

“I called every bank imaginable, and a couple answered and said we weren’t eligible, but no one else returned that call,” Brown says. “Terry did. He helped me out. We got the assistance when others said we couldn’t.”

The support allowed Opportunity Village, which Saturday hosts its 18th annual Great Santa Run in downtown Las Vegas, to pay 700 employees through 45 days. That’s three full pay cycles.

“It’s a lot of money, and it showed a lot of character for Terry to call me back,” says Brown, former publisher of the Review-Journal who took the OV position in 2014. “When you’re a newspaper publisher, everyone returns your phone calls. But they don’t always return your calls if you’re running a nonprofit.”

Opportunity Village is purring along again, hosting Saturday’s run in which thousands of participants wear Santa costumes and run/jog/walk/dance from the Fremont Street Experience’s Third Street Stage starting point. The event starts at 8 a.m. Packet pickup on Saturday is at the Fremont Street Experience from 8 to 10 a.m. at Slotzilla.

Registration and donation information is at OpportunityVillage.org.

Aces coach Becky Hammon and New York-New York ventriloquial star Terry Fator are this year’s grand marshals. Vegas singer Gabriella Versace, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman with members of the Chippendales at the Rio, performers from the OV entertainment troupes, Kristopher Dare and Mama’s Wranglers, and FIT4MOM are set to appear. Jason Feinberg of Fox 5 hosts from the main stage.

Established in 1972, Opportunity Village serves people with with intellectual and related disabilities, to positively impact their lives and the lives of the families who love them, through its four Southern Nevada campuses, its thrift store and nearly 60 community partner locations across the Las Vegas Valley.

OV is also hosting its annual Magical Forest at its Oakey Boulevard campus. The holiday walk-around attraction runs 5:30 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 31 (closed Christmas Day).

“Magical Forest is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Brown says. “We are in a lot of competition from for-profit attractions in Las Vegas. But people can come out, enjoy the park and know they are supporting an important nonprofit.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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