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September 1, 2014

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Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center:

Vegas lends its cachet to clinic partner

Gala shows how city, Ruvo benefit Cleveland group

Stars Support Siegfried and Roy

Siegfried and Roy reunite for their final performance to benefit the upcoming Lou Ruvo Brain Institute in Las Vegas. Emily Gimmel hits the red carpet and talks to Teri Hatcher, Hilary Duff, among other stars.

Power of Love Gala

Actress Hilary Duff poses on the red carpet on the way into the 13th Annual Power of Love Gala at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on Feb. 28. Launch slideshow »

Lou Ruvo Brain Institute

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Perhaps it was the nymph wearing tiger-striped body paint — and almost nothing else — dangling in a gold hoop that was strung from the ceiling, pouring wine into the upraised glasses of guests.

Or maybe it was the Rolls-Royce auctioned for $475,000, the showgirls, the celebrity chefs preparing courses of chilled crab salad and Kobe beef or the bottomless flutes of Dom Perignon.

Whatever the excess at Saturday night’s Power of Love gala, one thing was clear: This was not Cleveland.

That sums up the first impressions of the executives from the renowned Cleveland Clinic, who were among the 1,100 guests at the Bellagio for a benefit for Keep Memory Alive, the fundraising arm of the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

“It’s a little more uptown than we’re used to seeing,” joked Beth Mooney, a member of the Cleveland Clinic board of trustees.

David Strand, the Cleveland Clinic’s chief operating officer, added the obvious: “This is not a Midwestern event.”

When the Cleveland Clinic merged with the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute — a local organization dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and other brain disorders — it was obvious what it brought to the table. The Cleveland Clinic is ranked the fourth best hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report. It’s a $4.8 billion institution that’s famous for its excellent clinical care, research and a culture that puts patients first.

One might have wondered, then, why the Cleveland Clinic would want to partner with an organization in Las Vegas — where health care has a sordid reputation.

The 13th annual gala at the Bellagio showed what Vegas brings to the table. The Cleveland Clinic has partnerships throughout the world, but it has no other marriage with a local organization that’s committed to fundraising and marketing efforts to fight a particular disease.

Just as the Ruvo Center piggybacked on the clinical and research reputation of the Cleveland Clinic, the medical giant has inherited the cachet built up by Larry Ruvo, the Las Vegas businessman and philanthropist who started Keep Memory Alive after his father died of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Michael Modic, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s neurological institute, said the gala highlighted the Las Vegas team’s ability to bring about an awareness for the disease and raise money — both of which are essential to the mission. The Ruvo Center wants to do no less than cure brain disorders. It’s a big mission given that Alzheimer’s alone afflicts about 5.2 million Americans.

“Nobody has decided they’re going to go after the disease the way the Ruvo team has,” Modic said.

And that includes engaging its fundraising prowess.

Tickets for the gala, which culminated with the farewell performance of Siegfried & Roy, cost between $1,500 and $7,500 apiece. Auction items included a weekend at Ruvo’s Tahoe estate with comedian Robin Williams and tennis greats Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, with food prepared by Wolfgang Puck. Five people paid $50,000 each for the experience.

A trip to David Copperfield’s Bahamas estate, hosted by the magician, went for $60,000. Dinner at “Desperate Housewives” star Teri Hatcher’s house in Los Angeles, prepared by Wolfgang Puck, went for $90,000.

In the middle of a historic recession, Keep Memory Alive cleared a cool $10 million at the event, including one $5 million donation two $1 million donations. That brings the grand total to more than $75 million raised by the organization since it started.

The gala represented the level of philanthropy the Ruvo Center needs, Cleveland Clinic officials said.

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