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October 21, 2014

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Shelter’s residents cherish rare chance to play, get pampered

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Paul Takahashi

Sherlyn Daniels, 46, holds a mirror as Wynn Resort make-up artist Stephanie Finch applies mascara at the UNLV’s “Camp Rebel Rock” on Wednesday, July 6, 2011, at the Las Vegas Sport Center. More than 35 students put together the four-hour event as part of their capstone project to graduate from the Harrah Hotel College.

UNLV Shade Tree

Shade Tree resident Kate Sahm, 33, and her daughter Kassidy Sahm, 7, walk from their bus into the Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

Sherlyn Daniels held a mirror to her face and smiled as makeup artist Stephanie Finch applied mascara.

On a typical day, the two women would never have met. Daniels is a resident of Shade Tree, a shelter for homeless and battered women in North Las Vegas. Finch works at the Wynn Las Vegas. On Wednesday, a class of UNLV students brought a dose of hope and joy to the women and children at the shelter, including Daniels.

“The makeup is something I’m not really used to,” Daniels said. “Instead of feeling bad (about my situation), I’m feeling beautiful.”

Daniels credited Camp Rebel Rock, put on by students studying event planning at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, for helping her and her 14-year-old daughter, Evan, cope with their troubled past.

“They’ve made the transition easier,” Daniels, 46, said. “I don’t see sadness in her face today. It makes me really happy.”

Although scars from sad situations can’t be erased with a few dabs of makeup, life was a bit more glamorous and fun for more than 130 Shade Tree residents who participated Wednesday’s event.

The heavy beat of hip-hop music emanated from the DJ booth as dozens of children — from toddlers to teenagers — jumped around on a trampoline and bounce house, shot hoops and climbed a rock wall at the Las Vegas Sport Center.

As the children played on the playground, their mothers were pampered with haircuts, massages, makeup and manicures. They all were treated to a smorgasbord of buffet food, courtesy of Caesars Entertainment and Chef’s Catering.

The four-hour event was produced by 37 UNLV seniors as part of professor Rhonda Montgomery’s festival and special event management class, a mandatory capstone course that puts all they learned about event planning during their years in the classroom into practice.

“This isn’t your traditional, sit-down class,” UNLV senior Jane Bunkers, 22, said. “We’ve done the whole sitting in class thing; now we have to show what we’ve got. It’s a test to see if we can make it in the industry.”

The students organized themselves into six committees, each tasked with a facet of event planning: operations, entertainment, catering, marketing, finance and audience management and safety. They were given a budget of just $2,625, funded partially from the UNLV Foundation and a $75 student fee to take the course.

Pulling together their contacts, the 20-somethings honed their fundraising chops, soliciting area businesses for money and in-kind donations. Over the course of a month — working 40-hour weeks — the students raised $19,000 in donations for the event to benefit the Shade Tree residents.

“These women and children are going through such a tough time in their lives,” Montgomery said. “Education is about giving back to the community. This is a chance for (students) to give back.”

Beth Maier, 24, graduated from UNLV’s hotel college last year and took Montgomery’s class during her senior year. She credited the “eye-opening” course and the hotel program for her position as director of salon operation at Wynn Resorts.

“It was the first time I realized how many resources I had at my disposal to redirect toward something good,” Maier said. “It showed me how influential I can be.”

Maier returned to the classroom last month to help UNLV students following in her footsteps prepare for their big event.

“The goal is to empower women and make them feel beautiful,” Maier said. “They are an amazing group of women. Their resilience is so impactful.”

For Kate Sahm, 33, Camp Rebel Rock helped her and her young daughters forget about living in a shelter.

“Being in the (Shade Tree) building, we remember everything,” she said. “This lets us put everything else on hold so I can have a few minutes of pampering and the kids can get away from the Shade Tree to have fun. It really touches my heart.”

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