At the 3:16 mark of Imagine Dragons’ music video for “Demons,” frontman Dan Reynolds is shown singing with his hands on the shoulders of Tyler Robinson, a Utah teen and Imagine Dragons fan who lost his life to cancer in 2013. During his health struggles, Robinson became close with the Las Vegas–bred band and, for the past four years, Imagine Dragons’ Tyler Robinson Foundation has thrown the Believer Gala fundraiser to benefit families like Robinson’s, who have been affected by pediatric cancer.
On August 25, comedian Joel McHale hosts the annual event at Caesars Palace’s Palace Ballroom. This year, the nonprofit is hoping to raise $750,000, nearly a quarter of a million more than the previous gala did. “We’ve seen a lot of year-over-year growth,” says Kim Gradisher, TRF executive director. (The inaugural gala in 2014 raised $315,000.) Since then Gradisher says, the foundation has been able to award grants to more than 300 families.
“Our main goal is to take away their financial burden. We don’t want to just help out a little bit here and there, but make sure the families feel a deep impact,” Gradisher says.
Families are invited to apply for grants by TRF-trained social workers at 20 partner hospitals nationwide—more are being added. Applications are then reviewed by TRF staff and a selection committee. If chosen, a grant of up to $12,000, distributed as $1,000 a month to offset non-medical living expenses for one to three years is awarded. Families also have the ability to apply for additional grants to cover travel required for medical care or “fun money.” Gradisher adds that TRF recently partnered with Merrill Lynch to pair grant recipients with financial advisers.
“Our reach is outside of Las Vegas, but Imagine Dragons is a local band and this is where it started. We moved our headquarters from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas in January,” Gradisher says. She estimates that 70 percent of Believer Gala attendees are local. According to its website, the Tyler Robinson Foundation receives 53 percent of its operating revenue from the Believer Gala, with the rest coming from corporate sponsorships, merchandise and additional fundraising.
Preparations for this year’s event include a first-time online ticket giveaway with a grand prize of round-trip airfare for two to Las Vegas, VIP tickets to the Believer Gala, ground transportation by Tesla and a three-night stay at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. A single entry was free on the Tyler Robinson Foundation’s website and additional entries could be obtained with a $5-or-more donation to the foundation. Gradisher says the contest entry page reached about 400,000 people on social media thanks to a post on Imagine Dragons’ Facebook page.
As always, the Believer Gala features an acoustic performance by the homegrown Grammy-winning rockers in addition to a preshow silent auction and reception. Honorees being recognized at this year’s ceremony include former NFL quarterback Steve Young, Fox 5 host Rachel Smith and the Children’s Legacy Center. Those who wish to support but cannot attend are also welcome to donate any amount to TRF online.
Aug. 25, Caesars Palace, tickets start at $750 trf.org