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Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021

Oh, Yes, It’s Vegas Night!

Oh, what a night ... for fun and a great cause

Forget about packing, getting on a plane and staying in a hotel.

Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Petroleum Club, you can go to Las Vegas — without leaving Shreveport.

Las Vegas Night, benefiting the Betty & Leonard Phillips Deaf Action Center (DAC), will roll the dice starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $250 each and can be purchased on the Deaf Action Center’s website.

“It’s a really great party,” said Collin Phillips, chairman of the DAC. “I have not had anyone go to this party and not love it. It’s somewhat intimate — about 300-plus people. It’s just a great time. It’s black tie. Everyone just really loves it.”

Your ticket includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and $500 in chips (you can buy more), for which you gamble to bid on silent auction items.

“It does not feel like Shreveport in the sense of the lighting, the gaming tables, the way the bar is set up, the food and the auction items,” Phillips said of the atmosphere surrounding the event. “It feels like you are in Las Vegas. … We want people to come in, disconnect and have a great time. When you go, you feel like you are in a totally different place.”

If you love “local,” you will love the many upper-end auction items on which you can bid. From trips to jewelry, there will be a variety of items donated by businesses of which you are familiar.

“We try to go toward more fabulous items, but we also try to stick to our local businesses,” said Sarah Toups, the event’s auction chairperson. “We really want to highlight them and showcase local businesses and restaurants. They all show up, year after year, to sponsor or donate some really amazing packages.”

Now in its 17th year and a biennial event, the success of Las Vegas Night is crucial to the success of the DAC.

“This is the event that keeps the Deaf Action Center going,” Phillips said. “Every two years, we raise anywhere between $150,000-$250,000. Right now, we’re at $260,000. With Covid and everything, that’s a pretty big deal.”

What the DAC does is also a pretty big deal.

“The primary focus of the center is providing expert sign language interpreting services for a full spectrum of needs — doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, job interviews, job training, courtrooms, classrooms, etc.,” Phillips said. “We’re also dedicated to training the next generation by producing and broadcasting educational and training webcasts for sign language interpreters in the deaf community.”

If you are not deaf, it can be hard to understand the value of those services.

“You go to the hospital and you’re a deaf person, there’s not someone there to interpret for you,” Phillips said. “There’s a huge barrier there. I also use the example of if you get pulled over and you’re a deaf person, that’s an issue because you have to use your hands.”

The DAC was started in 1982 by Betty and Leonard Phillips. The Phillipses saw a need — a need which needed to be served.

“The Shreveport Regional Arts Council brought in the National Theatre of the Deaf to do a performance,”

said Sandi Kallenberg, the Phillipses’ daughter. “In those days, we had no interpreters. There was no center. To communicate, we sat at a table and had to write copious notes back and forth.”

Kallenberg asked her parents to attend the performance.

“When we got to the party afterwards at the Barnwell Center, there was silence, because everybody was signing and not speaking,” Kallenberg said. “It was just such a weird experience, but it was beautiful — the silence. My mother remembered that she could finger-spell from childhood, something she had been taught. She had the best time that night, and that’s how it all started.”

To Kallenberg, the fact the DAC’s leadership has remained in the Phillips family is especially meaningful.

“When you start something like the DAC, it’s because there is a need in the community,” Kallenberg said. “That need doesn’t go away; it only grows. I am extremely proud that my Mom did that. She actually raised the money every year for Las Vegas Night — got all the sponsorships. Then my brother, Fred (who died earlier this year), did the same. Now, his son, Collin, is the chairman, and he’s raised more money this year than we’ve ever raised for Las Vegas Night.”

For Collin Phillips, Las Vegas Night — and the DAC — is a labor of love.

“My grandmother and I were extremely close,” Phillips said. “My father was my best friend. This event, and this center, truly mean an incredible amount to me. To be able to help those in need is extremely important to myself and my family. It always has been.”

And what would Mrs. Phillips say about what the DAC has become?

“Oh, my God,” Kallenberg said. “She would be toasting with a scotch and soda, or a martini, and she would be over the moon.”

To learn more about the DAC, you may visit www.deafactioncenter.org.

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