Visit Opportunity Village on a sweltering afternoon in late-August and it doesn’t take long to discover how football permeates through the halls of the expansive campus in Southwest Las Vegas.
One caretaker in a Peyton Manning Denver Broncos’ jersey pushes a client in a wheelchair, while another in a Richard Sherman hooded sweatshirt multi-tasks. When you ask another client to name his favorite team, he gleefully responds the Las Vegas Raiders.
“The clients we serve, they’ll have Raiders’ jerseys on, they’ll have Cowboys’ hats on and they’ll have 49ers’ swag on,” said Adam Joseph, vice president of philanthropy at Opportunity Village, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Sports is a part of their life, it’s part of their culture.”
With their clients’ love of sports in mind, Opportunity Village launched a 17-week NFL pick’em contest at the start of the 2018 regular season. The contest, Picks For OV, attracted a bevy of local celebrities, including two-time welterweight world champion Shawn Porter, UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin and former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman. The contest is back for 2019.
Joseph aspires to create the world’s largest football picks fundraising competition.
— JT The Brick (@JTTheBrick) July 9, 2019
Last year, the inaugural competition generated nearly $20,000 for the organization, Joseph said. CG Technology Sportsbooks matched the contributions with a $10,000 donation. CG Technology will again serve as the presenting sponsor of Picks for OV. For the second consecutive year, 100% of the donations will go back to the programs and services at Opportunity Village.
“We are proud to partner again as the presenting sponsor of Picks for OV. As Las Vegas continues to be one of America’s fastest growing cities, so does the demand for Opportunity Village’s services, which help nearly 2,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Parikshat Khanna, CEO of CG Technology Sportsbooks.
“What better way to increase awareness for a worthy cause than to use the popularity of pro football wagering. Our seven sportsbooks attract tourists and locals alike and OV’s mission of strengthening our community aligns with the pillars of CG’s own corporate social responsibility program.”
How the contest works
Just as in last season’s competition, the celebrities participating in the contest will each make a $1,000 donation to Opportunity Village. Joseph is optimistic that 12 to 15 celebrities will take part in the competition, up from 10 last year. The contest is also open to the public.
Each week, the entrants select five games against the spread from the Sunday and Monday schedule. The lines are set by CG Technology. Opportunity Village has an entry of its own, nicknamed Team OV. In last year’s competition, one of the clients nailed four of his five weekly selections when he picked for the team.
Picks for OV: Football Fever is an exciting way for some of our most ardent supporters and football fans to have a little fun while simultaneously supporting Opportunity Village!
— Opportunity Village (@OppVillageLV) August 14, 2019
Griffin, the 2018 winner, captured the title with a 43-34-2 record. The former UFC fighter picked correctly against the spread on 54.4% of his selections.
Tangible impact of donations
Ultimately, one of the main objectives of the staff at Opportunity Village is to provide the clients with vocational training and the requisite life skills needed to succeed outside the center. An axiom often repeated throughout the hallways at Opportunity Village is built upon a framework of the Three P’s: Pride, Purpose and a Paycheck.
To that end, clients from Opportunity Village are employed at approximately 60 businesses across the Las Vegas Valley including Starbucks and the Las Vegas Valley Water District. Every week, adults with disabilities from Opportunity Village stock the shelves at local Circle K convenience stores. Each weekday morning, a group of Opportunity Village clients serve on a cleaning crew at Gate C inside McCarran International Airport. The clients typically wake up at the crack of dawn to arrive on time for work.
Two years ago, the Raiders organization invited Opportunity Village to attend the groundbreaking of the new $1.9 billion stadium just off the Las Vegas Strip. Two clients from Opportunity Village’s Ralph & Betty Engelstad Campus also attended the ceremony where Raiders owner Mark Davis played a ceremonial shovel like a guitar to mark the occasion.
“I have goosebumps telling that story,” Joseph said. “It was a shining day at OV for the people we serve because it is something that inevitably will be the biggest thing to ever happen in Southern Nevada. We were part of that.”
Later this month, Opportunity Village is breaking ground on Betty’s Village, an 88-unit residential hall next to its Oakey Campus. Joseph views the construction of the residential hall as a game changer for the organization.
“This takes our organization full-circle, now we’re going to be a 24/7 organization,” Joseph said.
While Opportunity Village enlists an army of volunteers, around 13,000 volunteers assisted with the organization last year, it still faces some daunting challenges. Developmental disabilities among children have trended upward in recent years. In 2016, the rate of developmental disabilities in children ages 3-17 increased by more than one percentage point to 6.99%, according to a study from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As more children in need graduate to adulthood, the demand for quality programs and services could grow exponentially.
“Every single day we’re changing lives here,” Joseph said.