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40 days of Hard Rock labor

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The new Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip is open for business on Tuesday.
Photo: Justin M. Bowen

It’s 11 in the morning on a Saturday, and Erin Ward is with her coworkers, comparing trash bags. Eleven of them have just spent an hour picking up garbage around a picnic site on the Lee Canyon side of Mt. Charleston. “It’s not the size that counts, it’s the content!” jokes the woman with the smallest bag. She found one tennis shoe and a used needle. Everyone else’s bags contain mostly crushed-up juice boxes and napkins.

Ward is senior manager of sales and marketing for Las Vegas’ two Hard Rock Cafes, and today is Day 2 of 40 Charitable Acts in 40 Days, which celebrates the international chain’s 40th anniversary through various drives and events benefitting nonprofits. Other events include blanket drives, a Zumba dance off and the painting of a house that caters to foster children with mental disabilities.

It might smack of publicity stunt—but it’s more than that. Ward could have done 40 days of food specials or 40 days of concerts, each focusing on one year in the last four decades. That’s how other Hard Rock Cafes across the country are celebrating. Instead, she chose something that demands a lot of the employees themselves—and they’re responding; 135 of the company’s 380 employees signed up for at least one act of volunteerism. Thirty managers committed to scheduling those employees’ hours around the events they cared most about attending.

All this to bring attention to local charities, like Coloring for Chemo, which a local high school student began after seeing the hours of boredom endured by her sick younger brother at the hospital. Currently, the tiny operation collects and distributes 800 coloring books a month. Hard Rock Cafe is aiming for 3,000 in a day.

As for the playful argument on the mountain, eventually it’s decided—everybody wins

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