Saville Kellner has seen the beauty of Las Vegas in person. It’s not in a hotel or show or Strip-side attraction—none of the things that people outside of the city commonly associate with Las Vegas.
“It’s such a small, tight-knit community,” the entrepreneur and activist explains in a lengthy sit-down with journalist and author Cal Fussman on Life is Beautiful’s Beautiful Moments podcast.
A native of South Africa, Kellner made a name for himself in California as head of the cookware company Lake Industries before relocating to Las Vegas. He currently serves as chief executive officer of the marketing agency Revenue Media Group.
Through friends in California, Kellner became involved with the Scleroderma Research Foundation, a nonprofit focused on bringing more attention to the life-threatening autoimmune disease.
He did not expect to be diagnosed with the disease himself.
“I’m on the soccer field, playing soccer, and my fingers turn blue … this icy blue,” Kellner explains. “Not being a doctor, not being that smart, I said, ‘Oh, boy, I’m having a heart attack.’” What he had experienced, however, were the first symptoms of the disease. In time, Kellner’s hands would begin to curl—“It looks like I’m a piano player,” he says—and would never straighten.
Kellner has since dedicated much of his time raising awareness while simultaneously treating his symptoms with immunosuppressant drugs and healthy living.
Already involved in the foundation, he helped bring its annual fundraising event, Cool Comedy, Hot Cuisine, to Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues in 2014, drawing celebrities such as Bob Saget and Jay Leno and raising $400,000 in a single night.
Kellner explains that as a scleroderma patient, his mission is not just to raise money but also to improve the quality of life for others.
He continues to be amazed by the community’s response, saying people have openly embraced the cause—and a second fundraiser in October 2017—despite initially knowing very little about the disease.
“Las Vegas came out, and they supported the event like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Kellner says. “We sold out so quickly, and there is so much awareness.
“If you walk down the street in New York or [Los Angeles] and you say to people, ‘Have you heard of scleroderma?’ one out of 100 will say yes. If you walk down the street in Summerlin or Green Valley and say, ‘Have you heard of scleroderma?’ … 10 out of 100.”
It turns out that beyond the neon and the world-class hospitality, Las Vegas is a small town where neighbors truly care about each other.
“That is what is beautiful about this whole thing,” Kellner says. “I don’t believe this would have happened in any other city in the world.”
You can hear the complete conversation, with Kellner discussing his scleroderma diagnosis and the disease’s affect on others, on the Beautiful Moments Podcast below. Want to listen on the go? Download the podcast here.