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December 20, 2014

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Opportunity Village kicks off capital campaign with $10M donation, $35M challenge gift

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

This is a rendering of a new proposed northwest campus during an event for Opportunity Village Thursday, May 1, 2014.

Opportunity Village Announcement

Benefactors Dorothy and Lacy Harber are joined by Associate Executive Director Linda Smith, left, Executive Director Ed Guthrie and foundation president Bob Brown, far right, as they read a statement during an event for Opportunity Village Thursday, May 1, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Opportunity Village kicked off its 60th anniversary today with announcement of a massive fundraising campaign — and a $10 million donation to lead the way.

The nonprofit organization that helps Southern Nevada residents with intellectual disabilities has set a goal of raising $136 million, which would fund three initiatives:

• The building of a residential, planned community for people with intellectual disabilities. The community would be on 6.5 acres of land near Opportunity Village’s Ralph and Betty Engelstad campus, 6050 S. Buffalo Drive.

• Creation of a campus in the northwest valley that would include an employment training center, fine arts building, residential village and neighborhood park.

• Expansion of three existing Opportunity Village campuses throughout the valley.

To reach the goal, the Engelstad Family Foundation announced a $35 million “challenge gift” to Opportunity Village — meaning the foundation will donate that amount if the nonprofit raises an equal amount of money within five years. The

potential seven-figure donation drew hearty applause from supporters and board members gathered Thursday afternoon at Wayne Newton’s former estate, now called Sunset Springs Ranch.

The sprawling ranch’s current owners, Dorothy and Lacy Harber, had another surprise in store: They donated $10 million to Opportunity Village to jump-start the fundraising campaign.

The ambitious fundraising drive has been dubbed “Christopher’s Crossing capital campaign,” named after the son of Linda Smith, Opportunity Village’s associate executive director. Linda Smith’s son, now 40, was born with an intellectual disability.

“We can build a future where every person with a disability has the chance to become the best that they can be — where they will have a place to call home and friends who are dear to them,” Smith said at the news conference.

Lacy Harber, who amassed wealth in the banking and oil industries, said he and his wife were pleased to help the organization and the people it serves. The Harbers also plan to donate partial proceeds from future events at the ranch to Opportunity Village.

“I feel very humbled that we do have the money to make this gift,” Lacy Harber, 78, said.

Opportunity Village’s new slogan is “This is our year” — an ode to the organization’s motivation to aggressively raise funds and, thus, expand services in the Las Vegas Valley. More than 3,000 children and adults participate in Opportunity

Village programs or receive services, but the need is greater and continues to grow, officials said.

The organization began in 1954 when a group of local families banded together to improve the lives of their children with intellectual disabilities. Among other services, Opportunity Village offers job training and placement for people

with disabilities.

“We’re not only here to support individuals,” said Ed Guthrie, executive director of Opportunity Village. “We’re here to support families too.”

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