JEAN, NV. There was a wintery chill in the Nevada air hovering over the flat, Mojave Desert where the Gold Strike Casino & Gambling Hall sits off the I-15 on the state line between California and Nevada. The casino is a neon outpost marking the arrival of hopeful gamblers betting their earnings on the elusivity of hitting the big jackpot. It was also the site of the 13th Annual All Shook Up N Vegas Elvis fan club charity event held each Veterans Day weekend. This year’s theme was White Christmas hosted by fan club president, Judy Ri Chard.
This year’s event raised funds for the Children’s Heart Center Nevada (CHCN). The CHCN is the only medical center in Nevada providing “continuous care for the fetus, child, and adult with congenital heart disease (CHD)” or congenital heart defects.
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects affecting approximately 40,000 babies each year and occur in the early stages of pregnancy, when the heart is forming. Congenital heart defects include abnormalities in the heart’s structure, electrical system and other abnormalities that affect the function of a baby’s heart. (Children’s Heart Center Nevada (n.d). CHD Facts. Retrieved on 11/11/2013 from http://www.childrensheartcenter.com.)
The hope and importance of the care CHCN provides to babies and their families was personified by Tara who shared her story about her son, Carson, with the benefactors. Carson was only six weeks old when he suffered a heart attack early in the morning as the family was getting ready for the day. A panicked call to 911 had the paramedics at the home in four minutes, but within those eternal four minutes, Carson stopped breathing and his pink baby skin turned into a sickening gray. The team of doctors, nurses, and paramedics successfully revived Carson at the hospital. However, the tiny baby was not out of danger. He was diagnosed with ALCAPA which stands for Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery.
ALCAPA is a very rare heart defect that occurs as a result of the left coronary artery forming abnormally. Instead of connecting to the aorta, as in a normal heart, it connects to the pulmonary artery. (Boston Children’s Hospital (n.d.). Anomalous Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA). Retrieved 11/11/2013 from http://www.childrenshospital.org).
Surgery is required to correct the defect. The heart of a six week old infant is about the size of a walnut with coronary arteries that are barely visible to the human eye. The delicate surgery saved Carson’s life and restored the family’s hope. He is now two year’s old and while there are things he will not be able to do, such as contact sports, Carson will live a normal, healthy life.
Tara was accompanied by psychologist, Dr. Beth Creel, and social worker, Irma Casanova. The representatives expressed their gratitude to the benefactors and briefly shared the mission of CHCN.
Contact: Beth Creel, PhD
Donations can be made online at the Children’s Heart Foundation website: http://chfn.org/. Tara and Carson reminded us all about the most important Elvis fans: children. They are the next generation of fans to carry on the life, music, and legacy of Elvis Presley.
Friday’s festivities started off with Seve and Marcella Botello transforming their hotel room into their traveling Club Sevella Lounge. Club Sevella is a laid back, kick off your shoes, unplugged music session and the perfect warm up to put us all in the right mood for a great weekend.
Marcella is a gracious host ensuring her guests are cared for and comfortable. Seve is a talented ETA, whose musical inspiration is not limited to Elvis alone. You never know who might show up when Seve is around. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison are a few entertainers who might show up for a song or two. In fact, ETA Jacob Roman stopped in and entertained us with classic Elvis and Ritchie Valens hits. Jacob’s little brother, Matthew, showed us his talents by singing Bruno Mars’ hit song, When I was Your Man.
The Botellos are entertaining hosts who know how to put on a rockin’ jam session and have fun. If you ever get an invite be sure to show up.
The charity event opened up with a sock hop. The gals were dressed in bright poodle skirts and the guys wore leather jackets with their hair slicked back or in puffy pompadours. The guys and gals danced together to the doo-wop hits of the 1950’s.
When the doo-wops ended, many of the entertainers donating their time for the charity treated the benefactors to country, gospel, and Elvis songs. Karaoke music and sound provided by DJs, Debbie Smith, Dennis Stiles, and Sonny Boline, let everyone be a star on stage.
Saturday’s events turned out more people from all over the United States, including Elvis tour manager and official photographer, Ed Bonja. Other friends of Elvis sharing their memories were Dick Grob (Elvis Security Chief), Cynthia Pepper (Kissin’ Cousins), and Darlene Tompkins (Blue Hawaii).
Several top talent tribute artists dropped by to entertain the benefactors. Neil Diamond tribute artist, Rod Garrett, entertained the fans with his amazing voice by singing several popular songs of the iconic singer/songwriter. He presently stars in the new concept Las Vegas show, American Trilogy, and shares the billing with Justin Shandor (Elvis Presley), and Nick D’Egidio (Frank Sinatra).
It’s amazing how many people Judy Ri Chard knows. Throughout the night some of the biggest names in the ETA industry stopped by and sang, like award-winning artists, Travis Allen and Steve Connolly. Flying in from Canada was 2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest competitor, Eli Williams. Topping off the list of ETA talent was the official Fremont Street Experience ETA, Tyler James.
The talent wasn’t limited to just these fellas. Mark Maynard (Frankie Valli tribute), Don Rose, and Sonny Boline, were some of the many tribute artists entertaining the benefactors throughout the weekend.
One of several highlights of the event was the TCB Flash Band entertaining us by playing live music for their front man and ETA, Chris Luna. Accompanying Luna from Southern California were Jacob Roman (50s), Joe Bullock (’68), and Gary Anderson (70s). There is nothing like listening to top ETAs sing with a live band that gives you a inkling of what it might have been like at an Elvis Presley concert.
For collectors of everything-Elvis there were vendors in the back selling souvenirs and trinkets. In between sets, items were also raffled or auctioned off with the proceeds donated to the charity. The rug and Ed Bonja pictures were some of the most coveted items.
Tim McGraw made an appearance via tribute artist, Dave Hoover, with special guest Bill O’Neal of the Spinners. They sang McGraw’s country hit Live Like You Were Dying. The duet was another highlight of the event receiving a standing ovation.
Hoover also took the opportunity to announce he is putting the jumpsuit back on after a year hiatus. He will be playing a nightly gig with a live band on the Las Vegas Strip at Planet Hollywood.
The charity turned out to be one of the best events All Shook N Vegas has produced in its 13 year charitable endeavors. Judy Ri Chard is passionate about the charities she supports and tirelessly ensures the benefactors have a great weekend of music and dancing. Thank you, Judy, and all the volunteers who helped to make this a memorable event. See you all for next year’s charity event theme: King Creole Mardi Gras.