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August 1, 2014

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This free ice cream, served by local celebs, warms the soul

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Christopher DeVargas

Claire Sinclair, star of “Pin Up” at Stratosphere, scoops ice cream during Ben & Jerry’s “Free Cone Day” event in The District at Green Valley Ranch benefiting St. Jude’s Ranch for Children on Tuesday, April 9, 2013.

Celebs at Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day

Natalie Walstead and Whitney Giron of X Burlesque hand out ice cream at Ben & Jerry's in The District at Green Valley Ranch during Launch slideshow »

For one hour BMX professional Ricardo Laguna and a cast of Revolver Saloon and Dance Hall dancers scooped ice cream cones in virtual anonymity Tuesday afternoon at Ben & Jerry’s.

Children waited with their parents in a line that never seemed to shrink outside the shop at the District at Green Valley Ranch to see the stars. When they reached the front, they shuffled up to the counter to get what they waited for — a free cone.

Laguna and the dancers were just a few of a long list of local celebrity volunteers, which included Chippendale dancers, Mac King and "Pin Up" star Claire Sinclair, among others, who were upstaged by Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cherry Garcia, Phish Food and their ice cream cohorts on Free Cone Day.

Still, the celebrities weren’t there to be noticed. They were there to volunteer their services to scoop ice cream cones and raise money for St. Jude’s Ranch for Children.

“For this event, every year I get the same talent; Tracey (Gorman) from Fantasy has been here every year,” event spokeswoman Hillary Smoot said. “Everyone wants to do this event, it’s so much fun.”

The fourth-annual event, which was held at the District and Sunset Station, combines Ben & Jerry’s annual free cone day with a fundraiser for St. Jude’s. Every year the event is a huge boost for the children’s hospital.

Thousands of people from children to parents to a guy and his parrot are drawn to the opportunity for free ice cream, and in the process are introduced to the organization that provides a home for abused, abandoned or neglected children.

St. Jude’s Ranch spokeswoman Veronica Huening said sometimes that means a donation, other times a new volunteer for the ranch who could use a helping hand. Even though donations are voluntary, the event raised more than $2,000 this year. All of which will go toward shoes, clothing, food and event fees so that the children can live a normal life.

“Last year we raised over $1,500, and it helps increase interest in what we do. It’s not only the free scoops,” Huening said. “It’s a great partnership.”

Every year the event also adds activities for the kids. Children whose faces weren’t already splattered with ice cream had their faces painted, others giggled as a magician made balloon animals and some were drawn to the Games2U van for video games.

Most, however, were busy stuffing their faces with ice cream. More than 6,300 scoops were handed out, with the most popular being Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Carrie Black surprised her four children after school with the trip to Ben & Jerry’s. She said it’s their fourth year going to the event. Not only do the children love ice cream, but the Clark County Child Protective Services worker said it’s a chance to support a cause like St. Jude’s.

“I like the benefactor,” Black said. “It’s always a good thing. They need all the help they can get.”

Once the local celebrities were finished with their one-hour shift, they were treated to a free cone.

Aside from a sore arm from scooping hundreds of cones, Revolver dancer Elizabeth Olker said it was a great experience.

“Right now (my favorite part) is getting to eat the ice cream,” Olker said with a smile. “And getting to see the kids and their smiling faces light up when they get their ice cream.”

On this day, the celebrities were happy to take a back seat to the joys that ice cream brought.

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