CHANDLER, AZ – Team members from Gila River Hotels & Casinos – Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte, and Vee Quiva recently visited three nonprofit organizations with surprise check amounts during what’s become one of the gaming enterprise’s most popular philanthropic events – “Gila River Cares Week of Giving.”
More than $84,000 of self-excluded jackpot funds were distributed to the nonprofits to enhance the lives of Arizonans through educational programs and children’s welfare. Self-excluded jackpot funds are acquired if a player is ineligible to receive their winnings on games. Earlier this year, all Arizona-based 501c3 status nonprofit organizations recognized by the IRS were eligible to apply to receive these funds, and a committee from Gila River Hotels & Casinos selected the recipients.
The Gila River Cares Week of Giving comes at a time when nonprofits are seeing a decline in donations and an increase in expenses. According to the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, last year, nonprofits statewide experienced a 52 percent decline in year-end giving.
“Gila River has always had a strong culture of caring, and our team members are passionate about creating meaningful change through philanthropic efforts and volunteerism,” said Kenneth Manuel, CEO of Gila River Hotels & Casinos. “We’ve seen how devastating this pandemic has been to our local nonprofits, and we hope our Gila River Cares contributions help ease some of the financial burdens.”
This year’s recipients and distribution amounts included:
one•n•ten (Phoenix, AZ): $28,218
one•n•ten is the largest organization in Arizona that provides comprehensive services to LGBTQ+ and allied youth ages 11-24. They enhance lives through programs that promote self-expression, self-acceptance, and healthy life choices. The organization provides a safe space, mentally and physically, for youth of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, as well as education, workforce, housing and wellness programs both virtually and in-person at their downtown youth center along with their 11 satellite locations throughout Arizona.
“One of the things that became increasingly apparent to us during the pandemic is the increased need for our services for not only our youth but their parents as well,” said Nate Rhoton, one•n•ten Executive Director. “This is why we started our first parents group in September of 2020 and it’s quickly grown into one of our larger support groups with over 150 active parents. However, this is a completely unfunded program so unrestricted funds like this from Gila River will help to ensure all of those families get the support they need in creating a safe and happy environment for the youth in their family as well as provide them with the tools to uplift who they are as an LGBTQ+ person.”
ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth (Chandler, AZ): $28,303
ICAN is a free out-of-school program in Chandler that serves youth across three sites. The organization provides free after-school programs equitable for youth living in concentrated communities of poverty. The programs include meals, academic support, STEAM programs, structured sports & recreation and a focus on social-emotional learning. Programs teach disadvantaged youth real-life skills including goal setting, positive decision making and how to avoid risky behaviors that are prevalent in the community.
“ICAN is so thrilled to have been chosen by Gila River Cares as a recipient of funding this year,” said Shelby Pederson, ICAN CEO. “The funding will ensure that efforts to serve more youth with our free after-school programs will come to fruition. ICAN has been serving the Chandler community for 30 years, now across three sites, and we are excited to announce that we are growing into Mesa in 2022.”
The Tommy Two Shoes Literacy Project for Children: $28,218
The Tommy Two Shoes Literacy Project for Children’s goal is to help and encourage literacy among the youth of Arizona using a free book giveaway program. There are many children who do not have books at home and struggle with reading. The organization’s mission is to help improve reading skills by exciting children through the Read Day Event and provide each student in attendance with their own, brand-new personal book to take home and keep.
“We are so excited about this amazing donation from Gila River Hotels & Casinos,” said Thomas Womack, Sponsorship Coordinator of The Tommy Two Shoes Literacy Project for Children. “This will help bring our super fun and easy-to-use supplemental reading program ‘Reading to Daisy & Max’ to more schools across Arizona. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge academic slide for Arizona’s reading scores. Schools are now desperately seeking programs to help their students recover from the academic slide. This supplemental reading program has been highly effective for schools and the children are having fun. This award will help many Arizona children have a brighter future.”
This year’s “Gila River Cares Week of Giving” represents four consecutive years of surprising nonprofits with contribution amounts. The event began in 2018 as a cocktail chic “Gila River Night of Giving” and evolved to a “Week of Giving” last year, after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past four years, $322,739 of self-excluded jackpot funds have been distributed to 16 local nonprofits that enhance the lives of Arizonans through educational programs and children’s welfare.