Opportunity Village – Las Vegas’ Favorite Charity

Back in February of this year, we talked about All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and how this year’s version was to bring back famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) celebrity contestants to perform tasks structured to create havoc, celebrity meltdowns and good television while ultimately winding up with a finished product or promo or experience.

Well, now that the season is winding down, one of the last 2 contestants standing is Penn Jillette, half of the Las Vegas headlining Penn & Teller, magicians and personalities who’ve been performing together (according to Jillette) for 38 years. They’re the longest-running headlining act in Las Vegas, appearing nightly at the Rio Hotel & Casino. And, in his second time around on Celebrity Apprentice, Penn Jillette has upped his game and ended up a finalist on the show.

In this turn on the show, Penn again is representing the charity known as Opportunity Village.  Opportunity Village was founded in 1954 by Las Vegas parents who had children struggling with intellectual disabilities. One of the primary functions of the charity is to provide assessment, training and employment opportunities to both youths and adults who have disabilities. They’re Nevada’s largest private and non-profit community rehabilitation program.

When discussing the charity on Celebrity Apprentice (and notably getting visibly moved doing so), Jillette said that the people who are trained at Opportunity Village fill the jobs in Vegas that many people are not willing to do. The charity provide ways to connect businesses in Nevada with trained employees for jobs in assembly and packaging, document shredding, custodial and grounds keeping, and mail services.

Jillette serves on the Advisory Board of Directors for the charity, as do Paul Anka, Tony Orlando and Wayne Newton. In fact, in 2011 Wayne Newton was honored by Opportunity Village for his 30 years of support for them, raising quite a bit of money for the charity.

In a factoid that I find incredibly fascinating, workers at Opportunity Village made all of the scarves that Elvis Presley used in his Las Vegas shows in the 1970s, scarves he would kiss and then toss to his adoring fans in the crowd. And to this day, one of the jobs that workers at the charity do is make candy that is fashioned to look like poker chips that are sold at some of the Las Vegas hotels.

As of this writing, Penn Jillette has already raised $80,000 for the charity in this version of Celebrity Apprentice (he raised $40,000 in his previous stint on the show). If he wins Celebrity Apprentice, he’ll win another $350,000 for the charity: $100,000 from Walgreens (which is sponsoring the final challenge) and $250,000 from NBC.

As they point out on their website “In our society, people with intellectual disabilities live their lives constantly being told what they can’t do. Opportunity Villages strives to break that stigma, encouraging its clients to follow their dreams.” Bravo to them for helping so many people fulfill their potential.