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Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014 | 3 a.m.
Dan Bilzerian vs. B.J. Baldwin
Christmas is the season of giving, or as my hero Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Peanuts creator Charles Schultz weighed in: “Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”
What follows is an unexpected Christmas story of giving that involves one of the most unlikely of individuals. Trouble-making and poker-playing Las Vegas millionaire Dan Bilzerian has made notorious headlines in recent weeks: The 34-year-old trust-fund beneficiary has been linked to a nightclub brawl.
He’s been pictured with porn princesses and topless dancers romping in his collection of fast cars and faster boats. Tabloids have described his wild lifestyle and shocking playboy behavior and resulting lawsuits.
For three years here in Las Vegas, he was romantically linked with Playboy Playmate and MMA ring girl Jessa Hinton. He’s a close pal of off-road truck race driver B.J. Baldwin, son of CityCenter’s chief executive Bobby Baldwin.
In an extraordinary bet, Dan challenged B.J. to race his Trophy Truck in Ensenada, Mexico, against Dan’s helicopter from the city limits to the beach. Warning: This is a frightening YouTube video.
He had 20 minutes to do the impossible, and the insane Trophy Truck exploits captured on video are extraordinary. In a sense, it’s more incredible than BJ’s back-to-back Baja 1000 wins in 2012 and 2013.
Dan just seems to find himself in the thick of controversy with his outrageous and unconventional antics. Critics and Twitter haters alike have lambasted him, and he’s responded turning the other cheek with Biblical verses.
Las Vegas foster father Brian Hammond had never heard of Dan: “I never knew who he was. He was just a complete stranger who a year ago became our angel. He’d heard about what we were doing and offered to help. Dan gave us $10,000 and then doubled it and has stayed in contact with us ever since.
“He stepped in when all was lost. We talked on the phone about our needs, and we didn’t even meet. We owed over $1 million in medical expenses, we were behind on our rent, and our car was being repossessed. Out of nowhere, Dan suddenly appeared, and we were able to get caught up.”
Brian added: “We’re not 100 percent out of the hole, but are now able to make it one day at a time. We are very blessed to have somebody rescue us.”
Brian and his wife, Nicole, live in northwest Las Vegas and are foster parents who went on to adopt six young special-needs children.
“They were neglected, abused, malnourished and came from drug-exposed families. All have learning disabilities and anxiety disorders. One of their mom’s was HIV positive, so it’s a miracle that he’s alive. Taylor, who has chemotherapy, is in a day-to-day battle for survival. He needs a bone marrow transplant.”
Dan discovered the heartbreaking story via YouTube:
The extraordinary dedication began eight years ago when Brian and Nicole married and moved to Las Vegas. He was 28, and she was 24. Nicole landed a job at the Department of Family Services, and her first assignment was to sign up little Charlie. She says that the very same night, she had a dream instructing her to take care of him. He became their first foster son.
The couple attends Greater Evergreen Missionary Church and insists on daily Bible studies with their adopted children. Four of the six have now been adopted, and two remain as foster children. Their oldest is 8-year-old Taylor.
Their family of children grew over the years and included little Charlie. Brian and Nicole are waiting on the adoption papers to come through to add their newest foster kids, a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old.
“We made a full-time commitment to these children,” Brian told me. “We go into it with the foster children pretty much knowing they have no place else to go, and we’re their only option. We open our arms and welcome them to the family.”
Judge Cynthia Steel with the 8th Judicial District Court signed and approved the earlier adoptions.
Nicole described the process: “It’s just like an exhaling moment. We’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting, doing everything we need to do, all the paperwork, just getting everything done, and then it’s like just wait for the day.”
Caring for six special-needs children is a stay-at-home process. Brian is a freelance mathematics teacher who teaches 10 students at their home where Nicole, an accountant, earns money helping prepare tax returns. Their fundraising efforts are detailed at GoFundMe/TeamHammond.
Clark County’s Department of Family Services Director Tom Morton said adoptions are on the rise, with children being placed in more than 500 families this year.
Two weekends ago, a drunken driver hit Brian’s vehicle. “I’m blessed to be alive with only minor injuries. The car got banged up, but it still runs for the daily chemo hospital trips. Taylor is still recovering from the accident. ”
Brian is eternally thankful that the wild, hard-living poker prince found their story a year ago on the Internet.
“He found us right out of the blue,” said Brian. “I know Dan is a playboy, but at his core, he’s a good guy. I have great respect for him. It was very simple; he just wanted to help us quietly and without any publicity.”
I reached out to Dan through his Los Angeles representative to get his unexpected story of generosity but was told it was a private matter that he didn’t want to promote.
His rep did confirm: “Dan came across Brian’s story and has been donating privately to help, especially because Taylor is battling leukemia, and he wants to help save the child’s life.”
In recent days, Taylor has been hospitalized with a fever. It’s especially tough for the Hammonds as Christmas approaches. You can follow their story and Taylor’s battle at facebook.com/LordPleaseHealTaylor.
I wish that I could report something that flashy playboy Dan Bilzerian could say, but he prefers being an unheralded supporter. He might well be poker’s bad boy, but we’re thankful he remembered that it is the season of giving.
I’m remembering a Christmas Eve story, too, from many years ago of my brush with a Christmas Angel that I told the authors of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” that you could read at Christmas dinner.
Merry Christmas, everybody!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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