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October 17, 2021

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Big stars set for MGM Grand for Shaquille O’Neal’s fundraising gala

CES 2017 Day One

Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Shaquille O’Neal takes part in an NBA on TNT pregame show during the first day of CES on January 5, 2017 at the Sands Convention Center.

With multiple music festivals in the rearview mirror this month in Las Vegas, the city is used to seeing all-star lineups getting together for memorable performances. But a new, special one-night-only event is bringing in another incredible roster of superstars this week, this time raising money for Boys & Girls Clubs and Communities in Schools program in Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Justin Bieber, Imagine Dragons, Kelly Clarkson, Snoop Dogg, Andra Day and others will star in the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation’s inaugural fundraising gala The Event on Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The towering basketball legend who has maintained a significant presence in Las Vegas for years now — he currently performs during a DJ residency at Wynn Nightlife venues and his Big Chicken restaurant opened one of its first locations on Paradise Road — created his foundation two years ago in partnership with the two youth-oriented national organizations. The Event was supposed to make its debut in 2020 but the pandemic changed the plans.

“We just had to move the timing to adjust to what was happening in the world,” said Kari Uyehara, the foundation’s executive director. “Our office is based here and focuses on programs in Las Vegas and Atlanta, but this is the entertainment capital of the world so we had to do it here.”

The Event is expanding the audience for black tie charitable galas by selling sponsorships and tables on the floor of the Grand Garden Arena, and tickets to sit in the stands for more of a concert-style experience for other guests. Information and tickets are available at Guests must be fully vaccinated to attend.

Atlanta is the other city under the foundation’s focus because O’Neal spends the NBA season in Atlanta working as a broadcaster on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”

“The foundation’s mission when it boils down is really about providing resources and opportunities for kids in need,” Uyehara said. “Growing up, Shaquille had working parents, and he attended the Boys & Girls Club and has said on numerous occasions that it was a safe place for him after school, a place to get homework help and play sports. He’s been a supporter for over two decades now.”

O’Neal’s foundation recently helped open a new Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta. Here in Las Vegas, the organization partnered with one of O’Neal’s brand partners Icy Hot to provide grants to high school athletic programs impacted by COVID, specifically Bonanza, Rancho and Desert Pines.

“We heard from schools that weren’t able to do their normal fundraising through events and ticket sales to football and basketball games, and on top of that they had additional expenses,” said Uyehara, who also noted the foundation is currently working with the City of Las Vegas to refurbish a basketball court near the Doolittle Community Center.

The Event promises to raise more money to do good in the local community.

“With Shaquille’s stature and [celebrity] friends, he was able to get some pretty amazing performers for the first year and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” Uyehara said. “They are donating their time and it’s a pretty big ask but they also believe in our mission.”