Lace Your Shoes for the 28th Las Vegas AIDS Walk

 


Thousands expected to gather for fun, fundraising and public awareness…

It’s rare that I post actual press releases to this blog, but this one is perfectly written and give all the details you could hope for. So here it is, intact:

“Walk to the beat” at Aid for AIDS of Nevada‘s (AFAN) 28th annual AIDS Walk Las Vegas on Sunday, April 15 at Town Square. As AFAN‘s largest fundraiser, last year’s walk saw more than 5,500 walkers and raised $300,000 to support critically needed HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs.

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As Nevada’s largest and oldest HIV/AIDS service organization, AFAN provides supportive services to more than 1,200 clients including free HIV testing, prevention education, client transportation to healthcare providers, rent and utility assistance, nutritional counseling, food vouchers, mental health therapy and kids’ programs.

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                                    Grand Marshalls “Penn and Teller” 

Penn & Teller will once again serve as grand marshals for the 17th consecutive year and are encouraging walkers to take the Penn & Teller Challenge, matching every challenger’s $250+ donation dollar for dollar. The top challenger will be awarded AFAN swag and other prizes, including tickets to various Las Vegas shows.

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                                                “Miss Behave and Tiffany”

The walk will be hosted by presenting radio sponsors iHeart Radio‘s Marco and Joanna from the Sunny 106.5 Morning Radio Show, as well as “Sex Tips for a Straight Woman from a Gay Man” stars Scheana Shay from “Vanderpump Rules” and Chester Lockhart from MTV.

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             Cast members from Aussie Heat will be at the QLife booth…

Aids Walk Las Vegas

                                      Ruby Lewis of BAZ: A Musical Mash-up

The hosts will introduce awe-inspiring performances from Melody Sweets, cast members from WOW World of WonderNorma LlyamanRuby Lewis, and the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Broadway Collective.

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               Chippendales with last year’s guest host Tyson Beckford

In addition to the performers, Tony Dovolani and cast members from ChippendalesJennifer Romas from Sexxy the Show, (Westgate), Miss Behave Game Show (Bally’s), and several of Nevada’s public officials will make special appearances to support AFAN for its unyielding commitment to making Nevada AIDS-free.

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                                               Jennifer Romas of “SEXXY”

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In between being captivated by Vegas talent, walkers can visit more than 30 different vendor booths, ranging from local and national brand representatives or head to the carnival game area with little walkers.

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                                                          Antioco Carrillo

Said AFAN‘s Executive Director Antioco Carrillo:

This years’ AIDS Walk Las Vegas is more important than ever. With the dissolving of the HIV/AIDS presidential advisory council, funding for HIV/AIDS research and prevention has plummeted. AIDS Walk Las Vegas is a chance for community members to come together and raise their voices to support public health, social justice, and help make Nevada AIDS-free.

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Aids Walk Las Vegas

People of all ages are encouraged to participate in the 28th annual AIDS Walk Las Vegas. Registration is free and attendees are encouraged to form a team and fund-raise to receive incentives. For additional information and to register, visit afanlv.org.
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Presenting sponsors of AIDS Walk include Penn & Teller, iHeart Media, Event Consultants, The Walking Company, Greenspun Media Group, and PDQ Printing.

 

Photos: Te Ann Lakeotes, Madison Freedle, Gary Kabik, one7 Communications, Aussie Heat, Jennifer Romas, Miss Behave, Antioco Carrillo

Palazzo Surprises Guests On “National Plan For Vacation Day”


Movement encourages Americans to schedule their vacations and enjoy well-deserved fun…

Yes, I know what you’re thinking – “Sammasseur really loves Palazzo Resort. Blah blah blah”. And you’d be fair to say so. It’s true that I continue to crow about Palazzo‘s virtues (like Best Luxury Resort and Best Overall ShowBAZ Musical Mash-up). But since we’re in a time when so many Vegas properties continually find new ways to stick it to their customers, Venetian’s sister hotel does the opposite by giving back.

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Earlier this week, BAZ star Ruby Lewis posted a cute and clever video wherein she surprised Rosina Lounge bartender Sarah by taking over her shift. She then shocked two of Sarah’s guests with a complete Vegas vacation package.

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The unexpected award included round-trip airfare via Allegiant Air, a suite at Palazzo, tickets to BAZ Musical Mash-up and cocktails at Rosina Lounge. While the beginning of the clip seems somewhat scripted, the facial expressions of the recipients are anything but…

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The purpose of this clip…and the “holiday” that inspired it…is to bring attention to an growing trend among Americans. And that is the wasting of paid vacation time…an estimated 659 million days each year. An alarming 54 percent of us don’t collect on the R & R we’re entitled to, and that’s harmful in more ways than you’d think.

In today’s uncertain economy, many workers are hesitant to take time off, perhaps fearful that the well-entitled indulgence will cost them more than it’s worth. Sadly, that decision backfires in many ways. Not only does work fatigue damage both productivity and morale, but the economy loses approximately $236 billion each year in vacation spending.

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That’s why the organization Project: Time Off was created. They’re spearheading a movement to address this silent epidemic of self-neglect, as so eloquently stated on their “About Us” page:

We aim to shift culture so that taking time off is understood as essential to personal well-being, professional success, business performance, and economic expansion.​

To that end, January 30th has been declared National Plan For Vacation Day. It has been shown that workers who actively and deliberately schedule upcoming vacations in advance are less likely to make excuses for skipping them. 2017’s NPFV Day was the very first, yet more than 600 organizations in all 50 states participated.

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This year’s NPFV Day was even larger with major players in the tourist industry hopping on board. Naturally, everyone wants a piece of the pie, but what better place to let off some steam than Las Vegas?

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

Palazzo and Venetian have a long history of community service efforts and often show support for worthy causes. You’ll frequently see the colors of their signage and marquees changed to support awareness (World Heart Day, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness) or darkened altogether for the annual World Wildlife Fund Earth Hour.

Venetian/Palazzo team members also do their part to help the world’s communities. To date they have assembled and shipped out about a half-million hygiene kits to support Clean the World. That organization’s mission is to promote good health and well-being around the globe through improved access to soap and other hygiene products.

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Myself with BAZ star Ron Remke and “Morning Blend” host Jennifer Jean Snyder…

That cast of BAZ: A Musical Mash-up reaches out to the community through the magic of song and dance. In addition to giving performance lessons to members of the media and clumsy bloggers like myself (BAZ Boot Camp), they’ve welcomed local children to participate in a day with the cast. The event is part of the Positively Arts Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to using the arts to empower, inspire and heal.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

  BAZ stars Savannah Cross and Patrick Ortiz put children through the paces…

Ruby Lewis, the show’s resident “Daisy”, released a holiday single to raise funds for Alzheimers research. In October, she and her fellow cast mates formed “Team BAZ” for the Las Vegas Walk to End Alzheimers. It’s the largest such event dedicated to fighting the dreaded disease. Each performer dedicated their efforts to someone…for Ruby, it was her grandmother.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

In December, my best friend and I were lucky enough to be in attendance at BAZ when they were collecting donations for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Our donation nabbed us a couple of autographed posters and photos with some of the cast. Overall donations exceeded $11,000.00 in the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

As you can tell, I’m extremely enamored of the people in front of and behind the scenes…those who tirelessly work, create, support and go beyond to make Palazzo a very special place.

As other hotel casinos on the Strip find new ways to gouge their guests and claw every last cent out of your wallet, the team at Venetian/Palazzo go down a very different path. This is one of the many reasons why I consider Palazzo to be the “Best Luxury Resort” in Las Vegas. You can read more about the how’s and why’s by clicking here.

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

And don’t forget to schedule your vacation soon. If you don’t, Ruby Lewis just might show up at your workplace to remind you…and maybe even give you the night off…

Palazzo National Plan For Vacation Day

BAZ: A Musical Mash-up performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are available here.

Photos: Sammasseur, Venetian/Palazzo, Ryan Lyons

Hearts Alive Village: An Animal Sanctuary Built On Hope


Visiting a shelter for special-needs cats and dogs…

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She’s sophisticated, regal and just a tad bit aloof. Watching the world from her crow’s nest inside of Hearts Alive Village‘s “Cat Cottage”, Sadie (pictured above) is one of the rescue’s longest residents. A former feral who was part of a colony that was in a desperate situation when its caregiver died, Sadie and her companions were trapped and brought to Hearts Alive Village in April of 2014.

There Sadie remains, hoping to someday find a forever home as she looks out the window at the people who pass by…or stop in for a visit. She continues to make strides with her socialization skills, despite a harsh outdoor life, as she journeys towards happiness.

Sadie projects the character of a lady who’s seen plenty of adventure in her years. All of the other cats from Sadie’s colony have found permanent homes except for her and an FIV-positive senior named Tuffy. Perhaps she’s used up a couple of her nine lives, but Sadie’s face says “I could tell you a number of amazing stories…if you’d bring me home and listen to my tale”.

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Every animal at Hearts Alive Village has a story to tell. Most of them would start off with the wide-eyed innocence of puppy or kitten life, then take a sad turn to abandonment…or injury…or illness. Often these factors come together until the pets are at serious risk of being euthanized at the valley’s local shelters.

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That’s where Hearts Alive Village comes in. This all-volunteer organization (except for one veterinary professional who works part time) came together to assist animals facing the threat of “being lost in the shelter system”.

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Hearts Alive Village sprang from a concept by Christy Stevens, President and Founder of HAVLV. Wishing became reality when her daughter Kendall expressed a classroom desire to aid needy animals. Turning that dream into an actual, functioning organization was no easy task. Then again, projects that arise from a desire to make a difference rarely are.

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It has indeed taken a village to make Hearts Alive the effective organization that it has become. Countless volunteers and agencies have donated their time, money, living spaces, emotions and tears to rescuing and providing homes and supplies for these needy pets…and the loving humans who parent and foster them.

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Since coming together in 2013, the dedicated troupe:

– Saved over 700 dogs and cats from being lost in the shelter system.
– Feeds as many as 300 pets in low income homes each month.
– Assisted more than 200 community animals with training, medical assistance, spay and neuter…and more.
– Taught more than 500 children how to be responsible pet owners, approach animals safely and be kind to all living creatures.
– Became a Best Friends Animal Society network partner

I first learned about Hearts Alive Village while reviewing Richard Marx’s show at the Flamingo. Seated at our table was Sheryl Greenblatt, Communications Director for HAVLV. Casual conversation turned toward love of animals, and Sheryl told me about her involvement with Hearts Alive. I promised to visit in the near future and did so last week.

At the beginning, HAVLV focused their efforts on finding foster homes…and permanent homes…for exceptional-need animals. I learned recently that my friend Lisa Watson, who has a veterinary background, currently fosters for them. She shared a heartwarming rescue story she is involved in, centered around a misunderstood pit bull with time running out:

I found out about Hearts Alive when I saw a plea on FB about a pit bull in L.A., Bella, who was on the list to be put down. Bella had spent the majority of her life in a shelter, adopted and returned 5 times. Some said she was bad with kids, others say she was aggressive.

There’s a program that puts dogs who are at shelters with a foster family for a week during the Fourth of July, since this is when most shelters reach max capacity due to dogs being scared and they get lost.

So a friend of Hearts Alive fostered Bella during that time. When she was returned to the shelter she was put on the kill list. Her previous foster mom sent out a plea for help because Bella is the kindest most gentle dog she had ever met.

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Cera Ward takes Bella on her “freedom ride”…              

My family was just finishing up fostering a round of kittens and thought it was time for a dog to foster. Turns out that my best friend Cera Ward was in L. A. and rushed to save Bella. She drove 5 hours back to Vegas and we’ve had her ever since. She was seen at Legacy Animal Hospital, who welcomed her with open arms.

Hearts Alive provides all food and medical to the foster family and we provide a stable home environment that makes them easier to adopt out once they’re ready. It really does take a village to make all of this possible.

– Lisa Watson, a Hearts Alive Village foster parent…

In the days before becoming an actual shelter, the volunteers of Hearts Alive did everything they could to find homes for pets….and assist those who were surrendering theirs to shelters. Sheryl told me how she would stand across the street from a local Humane Society, stopping people to offer Solutions Over Surrenders, asking what it would take for them to reconsider giving up their pets.

Sometimes all it took was something as simple as a crate if the animal was wetting in the home. Or maybe they needed pet food or medical treatments they couldn’t afford. Luckily, we receive donations and could offer help to these people. In the end, they never wanted to give up their pets. They were making desperate decisions in desperate times.

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The back room of Hearts Alive Village’s retail store and adoption center is well-stocked with quality foods, toys, carriers and crates. Dubbed Kendall’s Kupboard after Christy’s daughter, the beautifully-organized area stores donations of all kinds. They are then funneled back into the community, assisting families who love their pets but are of limited means to provide for them.

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Speaking of the store and adoption center, it’s a great place to visit when the excitement and indulgences of Vegas are wearing you down. The Cat Cottage is a wonderfully comfortable and clean room where you can relax or study while the kitties visit with you. The serene atmosphere is therapeutic…without the cost of a spa.

All of the Cat Cottage residents are up for adoption, too. My heart was stolen by the wonderful Squeek, whom I fell in love with on my visit. Squeek has been a resident since early 2015. You read that correctly…unadopted for two and a half years. Fortunately, Squeek is healthy, safe and loved by everyone…especially those who can charm this fiercely independent heart-breaker.

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            Squeek has been waiting for a home for two and a half years…

I’ve been told that Squeek can have an unpredictable personality, but she was on her best behavior that Saturday afternoon. If you’d like to see about adopting Squeek or any of the cats and dogs at Hearts Alive Village, come down to meet them or call (702) 870-0065 to find out more.

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The adoption center is also a store that offers a wide variety of quality pet products, food and treats. Christy told me that their prices are the lowest you’ll find anywhere. Plus, there is no sales tax since the not-for-profit proceeds are used to fund the charity’s operations. The center is located at 1750 S Rainbow Blvd #4 between Sahara Avenue and West Charleston Blvd.

Along with active pet adoptions through their own location and pet stores, Hearts Alive Village does plenty of community outreach. Sheryl and Christy go to schools to teach children about animal care, have appeared on news and entertainment programs, and spearhead programs to assist veterans, seniors and the homeless with their pets.

If this wasn’t enough, there is The Village, an actual house that serves as a residential treatment program for especially-frightened cats and senior dogs.

We’ve rented a house that gives us the opportunity to provide a home environment when a volunteer foster home is not available. The cats who spend time at The Village aren’t ready for the Cat Cottage. They need some extra home time to become a little less fearful of people and find their true confident selves. Just because you’re a “scare-dy cat” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a chance to become a treasured family member.

Hearts Alive Village recently assisted two injured dogs that were hurricane evacuees from Houston. Despite the generous assistance of Legacy Animal Hospital, treatment for just those two animals wiped through most of their reserve funds. But Hearts Alive Village continues to soldier forward with their mission, offering hope for animals when others would give up.

If you’re interested in becoming involved, donating to this wonderful organization or supporting their fundraising activities, there are many ways of doing so. This week, Defending the Caveman at Downtown’s The D Hotel is helping restore that depleted account by donating a portion of ticket sales to HAVLV. Follow this link and use the code “Hearts Alive” when purchasing tickets for any performance through November 11th.

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That’s just one of the events that HAVLV has in store. Next month they’ll be celebrating at the fourth annual Monday’s Dark Anniversary Party. The Mondays Dark series donated proceeds from last March’s performance to Hearts Alive Village. Ms. Greenblatt said it was wonderful to receive the check and be able to pay a large portion of the shelter’s ever-rising medical expenses.

Mondays Dark Fourth Anniversary Party will be at Hard Rock Hotel on December 18th. Tickets range from $20 to $50 and can be purchased directly at Hearts Alive Village so they receive additional proceeds from the event.

To keep informed of upcoming fundraising events, check out the official Hearts Alive Village Facebook page. And if you’d like to make a monetary donation, please click here. Any amount will help to provide food, medical care and shelter for special-needs dogs and cats.

More than anything else, Hearts Alive Village exists to provide loving, permanent homes for animals in need. Click here for information on adoption policies (yes, there are rules to assure that animals are safely placed) or to fill out an online adoption application.

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Hearts Alive Village Adoption Center and Pet Supplies is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm. It is located at 1750 South Rainbow Blvd, Unit # 4 Las Vegas

Photos: Sammasseur, Hearts Alive Village via Facebook

 

Chippendales: Shirtless Angels of Charity


Legendary sexy dancers earn their wings with collars and cuffs…

The Chippendales show at Rio Las Vegas is one of my favorite productions. Along with being a rip-roaring night of entertainment, it’s also filled with the nicest bunch of guys you can hope to meet (and you will, just by sticking around after the final performance of each evening).

Sure, they’re hot, daring, mysterious and alluring…but behind those sultry glances are guys you’d be proud to take home for the holidays. Straddling the delicate line between “bad boy” and “mama’s boy”, the guys from Chippendales manage to be incredibly sexy and “innocent” at the same time.

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That successful formula is what makes Chippendales the class act of male revues…so much so that they’re a welcome fixture at charity events of all kinds. When they aren’t working out or rehearsing, you can spot them at numerous functions across the city, day and night. Apparently they never sleep.

The Chippendales lend their smiling faces and gleaming pecs to fundraisers, community awareness gatherings, social movements and much more. While covering media events over the past few years, I’ve seen the boys in action at numerous functions…and have missed many more than that.

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              Matthew Marshall and Bryan Cheatham at Showboy Bakeshop

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             …selling cupcakes to aid Pulse Nightclub shooting victims

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      James Leigh Davis “Drops The Mic” for Noah’s Animal House charity…

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     Sharknado 4 premiere party to benefit Animal Foundation of Las Vegas

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                   Cameron Brown at McDonald’s “Eggs for Education” event…

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Great Santa Run to benefit Opportunity Village…                     

Along with all the charity appearances, the Chippendales lend their celebrity clout to just-for-fun events. They’re fixtures at the annual Octoberfest keg-tapping at Hofbrauhaus Bavarian Restaurant, ride the waves of Planet Hollywood‘s FloRider surfing experience and show off their tans at Cowabunga Bay water park’s opening day.

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Of course, even when having carefree fun, the men of Chippendales inevitably seem to find a tie-in to charitable causes. Earlier this month, James Leigh Davis was one of the judges at TREVI Italian Restaurant‘s annual pizza competition, which awarded $500 to the charity of choice for the best media-celebrity pizza maker.

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Although Chippendales is known as the “Ultimate Girls’ Night Out”, they’ve welcomed men to their shows for a very long time….and they’ve built a very large gay following. The Chipps have embraced the LGBTQ audience so much that they appear regularly at Las Vegas Pride‘s daytime park festivals and the yearly evening downtown Pride Parade.

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You’ll see the Chipps marching for a cause at the AFAN Aids Walk and putting their black ties and white cuffs/collars on for the yearly Black and White Party. Both of those raise funds for Aid for AIDS of Nevada, an organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS patients and their family members.

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Human Rights Campaign to defend diversity…              

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AFAN’s Black and White Ball….                 Photos By Denise Truscello

Nevada Ballet Theater fundraiser with Vanessa Williams…

Nevada Ballet Theatre Honors Olivia Newton-John At 32nd Annual Black & White Ball

…Human Nature, Marie Osmond and Olivia Newton-John…                   

In 2015, the members of the cast became body models for a very unique breast cancer self-examination video:

Chippendales supported that instructional video by participating in the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure march. They continue to work regularly on a number of breast cancer events.

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Many, if not all, of the Chippendales philanthropic contributions can be traced back to their publicist, Michael Caprio. Michael, whom I’m proud to call a friend, is a tireless supporter of numerous causes, both locally and around the country.

Soon Michael will be flying to Australia to participate in the annual Wellness Walk and Research Run with with his friend and client Olivia Newton-John.

Here’s a message posted by Caprio concerning the event:

As many of you know, Olivia is not only a client but a dear friend – and she is going through her second cancer journey. She has brought so much joy to so many of you so, it’s your turn to help me (and her) raise much needed funds for the ONJ Cancer Wellness & Research Centre.   I am walking and raising funds for the Centre, ONJ and for some important people. My husband Randy who had his own cancer journey (and WON!), my Grandpa Dave (who unfortunately didn’t win) and, for my friend Benjamin Lemke – who at the age of 35 is currently on his SECOND cancer journey.   We need to kick cancer’s ass – so, please help with whatever you can – as we ALL have someone close to us who is going through or has gone through the cancer journey. It sucks.

I have been a part of the ONJ Cancer Wellness & Reserach Centre since the idea was born and working with Olivia and the amazing ONJ Centre team from inception to opening to today – I can truly tell you the Centre has the same magic and healing power as Olivia.  Please dig deep – or shallow – anything helps!  Thanks. – Michael

For more details on how you can sponsor Michael’s march with Olivia Newton-John to help find an end to cancer, follow this link.

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    Michael and Olivia last fall at TURN UP THE PINK breast cancer fundraiser…

Closer to home, the boys of Chippendales will be getting shirtless, wet and sudsy for two more rounds of Celebrity Car Wash on August 31st at Caesars Palace (near Flamingo-side valet parking) and September 7th at Caesars Employment Center parking lot (behind Bally’s).

Cost for a car wash is ten dollars, with celebs like Jeff Civillico, Anthony Cools and the ladies of X-Burlesque joining in on the fun. Proceeds will benefit BCA Breast Cancer Awarness and Beanies for Warriors, who donate hand-knitted caps for chemotherapy patients. Donations of knitting supplies and volunteers are welcomed on both days.

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So the next time you see a barechested hunk holding up a sign for donations, it’s probably not your imagination. Chances are it’s just the Chippendales, making the world a better place one shirtless day at a time.

Chippendales performs seven nights a week at Rio Las Vegas. Tickets start at $49.95 (plus taxes/fees) and are available here.

Photos: Sammasseur, Michael Caprio, Cameron Brown via Facebook, James Leigh Davis via Twitter, Official Olivia Newton-John Facebook, Hofbrauhaus, Planet Hollywood, Travelivery.com