The Vegas Inc Angel Awards were established to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of our community’s most outstanding philanthropic leaders. Now in its 13th year, these awards recognize Southern Nevadans whose generous spirits ensure everyone across the Valley has the resources they need to survive and thrive.
Our 2020 Angel Award honorees represent this spirit of giving in action. These seven deserving businesses and individuals were nominated by the public and reviewed by a panel of previous Angel Award recipients based on their service to our community, accomplishments and leadership. We are thrilled to share their stories and highlight the work they are doing in Southern Nevada.
In a time when this community has stepped up to care for one another, it is exceptional individuals and companies, such as these, whose visionary leadership and commitment to service have advanced the lives of others. Their contributions are what make the Las Vegas Valley a better place for all of us to call home.
Profiles of the 2020 Angel Award honorees originally appeared in Vegas Inc’s Giving Guide. Sign up to get each of Vegas Inc’s special publications delivered to your inbox on the day of their release.
Nonprofit of the Year: Vegas PBS
As a member-supported public television service, Vegas PBS has always focused on its mission to provide educational content through award-winning children’s programming, such as the science and nature shows “NOVA” and “Nature,” trusted news and current events programs like “NewsHour” and “FRONTLINE,” and locally produced documentaries celebrating our unique city. Their work keeps our community connected, informed and inspired – and has for over 50 years.
Foundation of the Year: The Engelstad Foundation
What began as way to honor the legacy and philanthropic heart of the family patriarch, Ralph Engelstad, has become a long-standing and respected presence in our community and beyond. The Engelstad Foundation was established in 2002 with the purpose of promoting medical research, improving the lives of people with disabilities and creating new possibilities for high-risk individuals. The foundation has provided more than $300 million in grants and scholarships, and serves as a major benefactor of nearly 200 organizations throughout the U.S.
Philanthropic Business (private) of the Year: Polar Shades Sun Control
When a global health pandemic hit the community Polar Shades Sun Control has served for 25 years, it didn’t hesitate to quickly pivot its business operation to meet the needs of that community in its time of crisis.
“In a matter of 48 hours, we were ready to produce personal protective equipment and assist local organizations that had minimal access to these supplies,” said Steve Mevius, president of Polar Shades.
Humanitarian of the Year: Jon Ponder, Founder & CEO, Hope for Prisoners
Jon Ponder’s experience with the justice system started when he was first arrested at 12 years old. After multiple incarcerations over the years and faced with a 23-year sentence in federal prison, it was then that Ponder made a determined decision that this would be the last time.
While serving what resulted in a five-year sentence, Ponder used his time to educate himself and prepare for his imminent return home. As he approached his release date, the reality of the barriers that awaited him on the outside hit. It was then that his vision for HOPE for Prisoners was born.
Philanthropic Business (public) of the Year: The Venetian Resort, Las Vegas Sands
From the outside, the Venetian is a tribute to the famed city of Venice, Italy. But on the inside, it’s a representation of the heart of those who work and give to this wonderful place they call home: Las Vegas. Under the Las Vegas Sands umbrella, the Venetian believes it’s important to engage with the community to drive impact and inspire change – and they’ve risen to the challenge in their philanthropic work through their corporate giving program, Sands Cares.
Volunteer of the Year: Courtney Kaplan, Advocate for Life, Nevada Donor Network
Turning an extremely personal experience into a lifelong dedication to helping others is the truest sense of advocacy – and exactly what Courtney Kaplan has done.
In 2019, Kaplan received a call that any parent fears. Her son Michael suffered a traumatic brain injury – one that comes with only a 5% chance of recovery. Michael had a passion for life and had made the decision to do what he could to share all the beauty it holds, even after life, by being an organ donor. With the help of staff at University Medical Center, Kaplan was connected to the Nevada Donor Network.
Cultural Advocate of the Year: Joshua Levine, CEO & Founder, Fired Up Management and Art Director, Area15
You won’t meet someone more energized about their work and enriching the lives of others than Joshua Levine. The wonderful world of art has been part of him since he was young.
“I have always loved art and I have managed to blend my love of the arts into my everyday life ever since I was a kid,” Levine said. “It is amazing to see how these principles are now being recognized on a larger scale.”