The JDRF Nevada Chapter is thrilled to announce the Ellis Family – Gary, Cindy, Christina, Anamarie, and Michaela – as the 2019 Hope Gala Honorees.
In 1953, Frank Ellis, Sr. and his wife Laura loaded their children in the car and left West Virginia for a vacation in California. Laura’s sister lived in Las Vegas, so they decided to pay her a visit along the way. Once they arrived, they saw the opportunity here in Las Vegas and decided to make it their home. The following year, their son, Frank Jr., sent for his high-school sweetheart, MaryJo Adams. They were married and raised their four children – Frank III, Michele, Gary and Tina – here in Las Vegas.
In 1955, recently discharged from the Air Force, Pete Berger and his wife Dolly decided to leave New York and also head west. Pete had been stationed in California a few years earlier, and the couple wanted to return. On the way there, they made a quick stop in Las Vegas just to see what it was like. They never left. Five years later, their daughter Cindy was born.
Fast forward almost thirty years, when a mutual friend introduced Gary and Cindy, and the rest, as they say, is history. The two began dating, eventually married in 1990, and started a family of their own.
Gary and Cindy take pride in being native Las Vegans. They love their city – its uniqueness, its sense of community and its ability to rally around important causes.
Gary is the owner of Ellis Island Hotel, Casino and Brewery, the Village Pub Casinos, Casino Valle Verde, and the Mt. Charleston Lodge. He attended Bishop Gorman High School and UNLV, but his real education was in the restaurant business. In 1968, his parents opened The Village Pub on Koval Lane. Gary and his siblings grew up in the business, working in many different positions and departments. But out of the four children, Gary was the only one that liked it. In fact, he fell in love with it and in 1985, he eventually bought The Pub from his parents with the dream of someday building a casino. He changed the name to Ellis Island and slowly started expanding the property. Several years later, he began expanding to neighborhood taverns, and, eventually, up to Mt. Charleston. Gary is a Founding Member of the Nevada Restaurant Association. He is the Honorary Commander of the 26th Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base and, along with his wife and daughters, is very active in the Las Vegas community, supporting many organizations, especially those that address hunger, homelessness, education and childhood illness.
Cindy graduated from Valley High School and the University of Southern California. With degrees in Public Relations and Psychology, she began her career here in Las Vegas in hotel sales and marketing. Eventually, she became an investment advisor and money manager for Prudential Securities, working as a Vice President of Investments until retiring in 1993 to devote her time to her family and philanthropic pursuits. Cindy is currently the President of Nevada Women’s Philanthropy (NWP), a local all-volunteer organization of 120+ women that, to date, has awarded approximately $5 million in impact grants to nonprofits here in Southern Nevada. She is also an advisor to the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a member of the Moonridge Group’s Greater Good Council, and a member of Bishop Gorman’s Assistance Corporation, overseeing the investments of the school’s donations and endowments.
Gary and Cindy have three beautiful daughters, all of which graduated from Bishop Gorman. Christina, 27, is a 2014 graduate of USC, where she majored in Fine Arts and minored in Entrepreneurship. She currently works as the Director of Marketing for Ellis Island and the family’s other holdings. She is a member of NWP, an advisor to the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a founding member of the Las Vegas chapter of Creative Mornings, and is currently studying for her MBA at UNLV.
Anamarie, 25, is the Director of Player Development at Ellis Island Casino. She is a graduate of Chapman University, where she majored in Business Administration with emphases in Management and Entrepreneurship, and she minored in Psychology. Anamarie is also a member of NWP on the Grant Screening Committee and is involved with other charitable organizations in the Las Vegas community including Project 150, working to end youth homelessness.
Michaela, 21, is currently a Senior at the University of San Diego, where she is studying Business Administration with a minor in Psychology. She is a member of the Alpha Delta Pi Sorority and is on the Torero Program Board, the event-planning branch of USD’s student government. After graduating this May, she plans on returning to Las Vegas and joining the family business.
Giving back to the Las Vegas community is very important to the Ellises, and they do much of this as a family. Especially dear to their hearts is helping those affected by childhood illness. For the past 20 years, they have hosted an annual Halloween party at Ellis Island for the families of the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation. They have also been strong supporters of JDRF in their mission to cure Type 1 diabetes.
The Ellis family is, therefore, very proud to stand with the Nevada Chapter of JDRF as this year’s honorees. Please join them with your generous support in helping to eradicate this deadly disease…Vegas style.