Strip entertainer Mark Shunock didn’t like stuffy and boring charity events. With a robust entertainment industry presence, fundraisers in Las Vegas should be exciting, he thought. So he harnessed the talent of other local performers to put on shows that could not only draw interested crowds, but also raise money for nonprofits in need. The culmination of his vision was a recurring event called Mondays Dark, launched four years ago.
“We have reinvented the way you give money in Las Vegas,” Shunock says. “It’s the best $20 you’ll spend in town.”
With 58 charities helped and more than $600,000 raised since its inception, the event marked its anniversary December 18 at The Joint inside the Hard Rock. “We have 140 charities on the waiting list, so we have years of Monday’s Dark ahead of us,” Shunock adds.
Monday’s Dark, which now runs twice a month, started out on the third Monday of each month and took over venues including Body English and Vinyl inside the Hard Rock. As the number of performances grew as well as the number of charities it helped, Mondays Dark secured its own dedicated place, known as The Space, about a year ago.
Each event has a different musical theme, such as the “pop princesses” night that featured songs from female artists. The best singers from local bands or Strip shows captivated audiences with their performances, and at the end, a local nonprofit was handed a check for about $10,000, which can be a game-changer for many of them.
Photos by Ryan Hafey
“For us, that helped provide two months of services,” says Ali Caliendo, the executive director of Foster Kinship, a Las Vegas–based organization that provides resources to keep foster children with relatives.
After hearing about Monday’s Dark a few years ago from a musician friend, Caliendo decided to see how to go about getting her nonprofit involved in a show. “This is a fun way to raise money,” she says. “I think it has the potential of getting more people involved.”
The organization made the cut for 2017.
The anniversary show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino honored all the nonprofits from 2017, which included Spread the Word Nevada and Cupcake Girls. At the event, Shunock announced upcoming plans and the new logo for Monday’s Dark. In addition to making money from the ticket sales and a silent auction, Shunock auctioned off a piece of artwork live-painted by a Jabbawockeez performer, and six months’ airtime on a private jet, which went for $2,100 and $15,000, respectively.
He also secured donations to go toward the beautification of an area on Harmon Avenue, which is where The Space is located. (As part of his permit with Clark County, Shunock was asked to help spruce up the surrounding area next to The Space, which they are currently doing with landscaping.)
Photos by Ryan Hafey
At the end of the night, Shunock announced the 21 nonprofits that would be featured in 2018. Erica Mosca, the executive director of Leaders in Training, a college-access organization designed to help first-generation students, was among those choosen.
“I was shocked we were actually selected,” Mosca says. She attended the benefit on behalf of Foster Kinship, prompting her to inquire about the process to be considered. “I like this because $20 makes it accessible to most people,” she says. “Being selected means a lot, especially as a local nonprofit.”
Leaders in Training’s night will happen in August, just in time for the start of the school year.
In addition to helping a new group of charities in 2018, Shunock also hopes to build name recognition for Mondays Dark. “People in the charity community know us, but name in the larger community doesn’t exist yet,” he says. “We hope to become a household name.”