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Foundation works toward Nevada school for blind children

Did you know Nevada is the only state in America without a school for blind children? As a state, we trail Mississippi and Alabama in schools for blind kids.

“You can’t even wrap your mind around that, right?” said Amanda Gibson, 2015’s Miss Nevada United States, and an activist for the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation.

“It’s insane,” said Dr. Helga Pizio, a longtime Las Vegas ophthalmologist and an executive on the board of the foundation.

The Las Vegas Valley has an estimated 400 blind children. Blind students go to schools along with every other child, receiving some help from special teachers.

But that’s not enough, Pizio said.

“The school system is pretty overwhelmed, as we all know,” she noted.

Pizio said the city of Las Vegas has been helpful in identifying potential land for a school. And local eye care professionals, optometrists, opthalmologists and pediatricians have been receptive to the idea that Nevada needs a school.

But state politicians, and the casino owners and CEOs who pull strings around here, somehow haven’t gotten onto the radar for this need.

So the grass-roots Blind Children’s Foundation, which runs on private donations, was started a decade ago by frustrated parents, and it now offers free services to families with blind children, from Braille tutoring in English and Spanish, to computer training, beeping baseball, cooking classes, parties for blind teens and wall-climbing.

On Saturday, the foundation is hosting the Ladybug Ball at 6 p.m. in the Red Rock Resort ballroom. The annual event raises money to support those programs.

The ball has grown because of sponsorships from entertainers such as Terry Fator, eye doctors, and businesses such as Red Rock Resort and the construction company the Ledcor Group. It’s one of those Vegas balls selling tables from $5,000 to $25,000, in addition to $300 tickets.

If you want to help or attend, check out NVBlindChildren.org, or call Executive Director Emily Smith 702-735-6223.

FOODIE NATION

One of the big food trends is for celebrity chefs to launch fast-food restaurants selling high-quality chow. For instance, Bobby Flay put a $10 price point on his Bobby’s Burger Palace in front of the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Is it possible such fast-food joints someday can replace McDonald’s and serve us broccoli?

Adam Rapoport, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit magazine, says some chefs are already on it, citing New York’s acclaimed Superiority Burger as a trendsetting vegetarian hot spot.

Rapoport is in Las Vegas this week for Bon Appetit’s foodie fest, Vegas Uncork’d, from Thursday through Sunday ($225-$1,000; VegasUncorked.com).

It’ll feature top chefs headlining master series lunches and dinners, and a $1,000 multicourse with Nobu Matsuhisa.

Rapoport said the biggest event is Thursday’s 500-person Venetian master series “under the stars” in the outdoor Doge’s Palace Piazza with Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Olivier Dubreuil, Kim Canteenwalla and David Werly, to celebrate Uncork’d’s 10th anniversary ($325 per person).

Rapoport said Vegas has a leg up on other cities, because “every resort casino has to have big-name chefs now.”

And in Vegas, you don’t need reservations four weeks in advance or to pretend you’re Abe Froman to steal his reservation.

MISS AMERICA’S 19 HANDICAP

It seems like every golfer has the same strengths and weaknesses, even former Miss America Kira Kazantsev, who will be golfing in Vegas for the first time this weekend during Tiger Jam.

Strength: “My drive,” she said.

Weakness: “My short game.”

However, if you’re Miss America with a 19 handicap, you get tips from pros such as Gary Player.

“He said you have to play with your core, because that’s the strongest part of your body,” she said.

“I’ve been trying to focus more on being like a slingshot, or how you throw a baseball. If you’re right-handed, you transfer all your weight to your left foot as you come through the throw. The same thing can be said with golf. You have to transfer all your weight to get the ball out.”

Her bigger problem is, she worries too much about holding people up behind her, so she rushes her bobbing head up.

“You have to keep your head down, but I want to see if the ball’s going to go in the hole,” she said.

Golf is a metaphor for her life, she said: “Even when things get hard, you still have to commit to it, or it’ll get worse before it gets better.”

Kazantsev will be helping Tiger Jam host auctions while the annual Tiger Woods charity event stages a concert, poker games and golf outings Friday and Saturday at Shadow Creek, the MGM Grand and various other locations (TigerWoodsFoundation.org; $3,000-$25,000 packages).

If you see Kazantsev, just say “hi” and don’t think of her as a Miss America, she said.

“People take it as much more formal than it is. I’m a regular 24-year-old who happens to have been Miss America, and I lead a normal life, compared to everybody else.”

SIGHTINGS

Flo Rida luxuriated in a private cabana with Dom Perignon Rose at Mandalay Bay’s Daylight dayclub on Saturday, then partied Saturday night at Light nightclub.

Band members from Pentatonix were in the crowd to see French Montana perform with Cash Cash Saturday at Marquee nightclub in The Cosmopolitan.

Mike Tice and Donald Penn of the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills’ Stevenson Sylvester, and kickboxing Mark DellaGrotte went to MGM’s Crush before Saturday’s UFC fight.

And UFC fighters Anthony and Sergio Pettis, in gold chains and sunglasses, partied Saturday at Chateau nightclub in the Paris Las Vegas hotel.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian.

Doug Elfman can be reached at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman. On Twitter: @VegasAnonymous

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