For Julie Cane, the best gifts don’t come wrapped in crisp paper, tied up with a perfect bow, and placed under a tree. The best gifts are brief moments of time shared with others, celebrating a birthday, offering a sandwich and a warm pair of socks, or a once-in-a-year dance celebration, forgetting the worries of the world.
Cane, whose role as Corporate Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Gaudin Motor Company’s three Las Vegas car dealerships, complements her personal interests and commitment to the community perfectly. She believes strongly in the power of giving time rather than presents; so much so that for her birthday, she started “presence not presents.” Every year for her birthday, she gathers 20 friends and celebrates her day by giving back through service in the community.
“It really started when my mom died,” said Cane. “Nine hundred people showed up at her wake and kept saying the same thing; they all had little stories of moments they had with her — she was famous for buying coffee for the car behind her. I kind of thought about it, and that was it. It was all about those little moments. I realized the power that I had to make change with small groups of people.”
Though she’d been involved in charity work before, seeing the impact of those brief moments her mom had spent with so many people helped Cane realize the power that she had to make change with small groups of people.
Today, her impact is felt by small and not-so-small groups across the valley. Most recently, Cane has gotten involved with the Shine A Light organization, which engages with the underserved population of people living in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas. Without hesitation, Cane started going into the tunnels in May 2021, joining groups of 100 volunteers who go down every Saturday, delivering freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hygiene products, flashlights, batteries, and, most importantly, engaging in conversation.
While she’d been friends with the organization’s Executive Director, Paul Vautrinot, for years, it wasn’t until an unlikely pairing with Las Vegas Raider Darren Waller that she started going into the tunnels herself.
“He was driving one of Gaudin’s cars. And they have to meet with me as part of the process, and I have to understand their passions as far as the community. Darren’s was based in recovery, and he and I ended up going down into the tunnels,” said Cane. “Darren and Paul bonded, and the Darren Waller Foundation is now funding a lot of what we do.”
Cane joined the Shine A Light Board about six months ago and takes community groups into the tunnels monthly, helping to educate community leaders on what it’s truly like, and changing the way they see homeless people.
“I grew up in a very loving family, I never went without anything, and this has just changed me,” said Cane. “It has made me a better person. I see the people who go out every Saturday, they were them, and they are so grateful now that it’s their giveback. They are a tribe and celebrate everyone’s sobriety.”
Cane celebrates with other groups as well. Every month for the past six years, Cane has baked cupcakes for the James Boys and Girls Club’s monthly Birthday Club celebration.
But her biggest joy comes each December when she draws on her nightlife experience from working at the Palms Casino Resort and puts together a nightclub event for adults with special needs.
“Of all the things, Club Shine is me. That’s my baby,” she said.
And there have been a lot of things. Over the years, Cane has given her time to a variety of organizations throughout Southern Nevada, including Joy Prom, a prom experience for individuals with special needs, The Just One Project, Three Square, and Serving Our Kids Foundation, while also chairing the Grant A Gift Autism Foundation Gala. She was also a member of the Leadership Las Vegas Class of 2020 and remains involved as an alumnus.
“I think you should ask yourself what you care about and start there. What I’ve found is when it’s personal, you tend to stay involved,” said Cane.
At Gaudin, Cane has made it both personal and professional. “When [Gary Ackerman, Gaudin Dealer Principal] hired me, he wanted me to work on our brand in the community,” said Cane. “It’s been the greatest gift because part of my job is working with different organizations. I love going around and learning about different groups and how they can fit in with our stores.”
Gaudin Motor Company has always been heavily involved in the community Cane explained, “When George Gaudin founded the company, he said, ‘Serving our clients and our community is not just what we do, it is who we are,’ and to have that be a part of my job makes it really easy to make it a part of my life.”