2014 IMEX Challenge

The IMEX Challenge is a humanitarian initiative for the meetings industry. The idea is to make a positive impact on the lives of others - particularly children. It also aims to leave a financial legacy to continue the development of the group or charity concerned.  So far challenges have taken place in Warsaw, Poland, Ljubljana, Slovenia and Las Vegas, USA.



About the 2014 IMEX Challenge

14,300 dollars raised, 46 volunteers, 2 gardens, 2 days, 1 happy shelter!

Group Shot

The 2014 IMEX Challenge was a huge success, with 46 volunteers from the meetings industry coming together during the weekend of October 11-12 to create a new healing garden for the Shade Tree Shelter in Las Vegas.

Team Work

Teams worked together in 4-hour shifts during the weekend. Some braved the heat in the garden, tasked with weeding, planting new flowers and trees and installing a vital irrigation system. An old vegetable garden was even discovered and returned to its former glory. Beetroots, radishes, basil and swiss chard were ready for picking and sent straight to the kitchen! The Shade Tree staff were extremely excited about the prospect of 'growing their own' fruit and veges!


Other volunteers helped to sort through the hundreds of clothing and toy donations the shelter receives. All of which are categorized and stored all year round to clothe the women and children there. 

Thanks to the sponsorship from Sands Cares which covered all the costs of creating the new garden, all additional sponsorship raised could go straight to the shelter, totalling $14,300. The finished results of the healing garden are tremendous and thanks to The Venetian® I The Palazzo's® Horticulture Team who have committed to maintain it and help teach the women and children of the shelter about gardening, we hope it will be a lasting legacy for the women who often need this quiet, tranquil place to meditate and recover. 

Aaron Elliott's Report

Everyone that took part in the Challenge came away with a huge sense of achievement from the experience, you can read about Aaron Elliot's experience in his report here. We encourage you to also read the testimonials below from some of the volunteers and browse the photos taken.

Song _Division _LogoThe IMEX Challenge Song

While the volunteers were busy digging, planting and sorting, SongDivision, worked with the women and children to compose and record a song about their experiences and life at the Shade Tree.  The song can be heard on the following video produced here, featuring images of the volunteers and sponsors. The song was also played to the IMEX America MPI Keynote audience on Smart Monday.Thank you to SongDivision for supporting this Challenge song.


Dale Hudson, Knowledge and Events Director, IMEX Group 

“We have been so lucky to have wonderful industry volunteers come forward to help, and the support of the wider meetings and events industry has been heartwarming. Giving back to the community is so important but the truth is the volunteers and supporters always get so much back from the experience themselves - it’s always a win-win.  I sincerely thank all of those who made the new gardens possible this weekend…..which have already had their first visit from a hummingbird, bumble bees and butterflies.” 

Photos and Video

Karen           Sarah And Milda


Mike      DMC      Aaron

The full IMEX Challenge photo album can be viewed here.

A photo album from The Venetian Las Vegas can be viewed here.


Watch the video from Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Las Vegas Video Image

The Shade Tree Shelter

Shade Tree 25th Anniversary Logo HorizontalThe Shade Tree is the largest shelter of its kind in Southern Nevada and provides safe shelter to homeless and abused women and children in crisis. On average, 33% of their clients are children under the age of 18. IMEX has been working closely with the shelter since 2011 as part of our giving back to the community project. The Shade Tree relies on 50% of its funding from private donations. This year is very special for the Shade Tree as they are celebrating their 25th anniversary. To learn more visit

 If you were unable to take part in the IMEX Challenge you can still make a donation to The Shade Tree Shelter here.

Testimonials from the Volunteers 

Read about our fantastic volunteers' experiences. 

Patty Kindness, National Sales Manager, AlliedPRA

"PattyIt was such an amazing experience to be part of the Shade Tree IMEX Challenge. The garden project is genuinely impactful to the residents of Shade Tree and provides a quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the facility. I’m a firm believer that a connection to nature is so vital to any rehabilitation and the garden reflects that effort. I’ve been a part of many charitable projects and I felt this one has been one of the most personally fulfilling and productive that I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. Thank you IMEX!"




Verena Jandak, Marketing Manager, Vienna Convention Bureau

                                        Vienna Convention Bureau

"I have to say that for all three of us, the participation at the IMEX Challenge was a great and profound experience. This was the first time that the Vienna Convention Bureau has been involved in an IMEX Challenge, and it left us with a feeling of being happy to be helpful, and also being reminded of how utterly priviledged we are.

Visiting the Shade Tree made us feel very humble. It is remarkable what the staff and volunteers are pulling off, their dedication is second to none. We were all very touched! It is so important that places and institutions like these exist. I can only applaud the IMEX Team for helping us to open our minds a bit more in this respect, and to get active!

One could easily see how much can be achieved, if a group of people dedicates only half a day (which is, honestly, feasable for everyone) to work together. So much can be achieved if everyone helps at the same time.

We were very impressed by the story behind the Shade Tree, and the various programs they are running for the women and children, who are escaping different situations. Also, the involvement of the horticulture team of The Venetian®  I The Palazzo® was a great idea.  Christian, Judith and I were truly impressed, humbled and thankful that we could contribute to the Shade Tree project. We actually had a great time cleaning and painting the benches. Little things matter, and it definitely gave us the feeling that volunteering is a win-win situation for everyone.

Thank you and the IMEX Team again for this great initiative!"

Verena Jandak, Vienna CVB
Christian Mutschlechner, Vienna CVB
Judith Settele, Vienna CVB

Jason Glascock, Associate Director of Sales, MGM Resorts

Jason"I thought it was a great experience and really makes one appreciate what we have and the luxuries our industry provides us as our job. It was a humbling event to help out those in need of food, clothing and simply a quiet place to think about the next steps in life. In the hospitality industry we get the privilege of visit exotic destinations, see the best of the best in hotels, restaurants and entertainment and this makes one appreciate how blessed we are to work in this industry!"



Natalie Joseph, Administrative Assistant, AlliedPRA

Natalie Allied PRA"IMEX provided me with an opportunity to volunteer at Shade Tree in Las Vegas. By doing so, I contributed to making a difference in the lives of the women, children and pets that the staff at Shade Tree work so hard to care for.

The IMEX Challenge at Shade Tree was a wonderful opportunity to reach out to our local community. Volunteering allowed me to offer my services to promote the mission of Shade Tree by encouraging stability, dignity, and self-reliance. My hopes for this effort is to show the women and children that with a goal, a little hard work, and perseverance, their life will take bloom, just like the gardens we helped plant and maintain.”

The Venetian | The Palazzo

Daliliah CornishDalilah Cornish, Bourbon Room General Manager, The Venetian® | The Palazzo®:

"It was a pleasure working in this challenge. It was an eye opening experience. Although Shade tree has helped so many women and children (even pets. It seems that the help that they can receive is infinite. The kitchen was tiny although they serve over 100k meals to women and children annually. The washer and dryer is like one I would use in my house but they receive thousands of bags of clothes a year. How do they make it happen? It shows that with resilience and a passion to serve anyone can “make it happen”.

I was quite impressed with how much they have accomplished in lending a helping hand to others in need when they can actually use more themselves. More volunteers, more space for a kitchen, more laundry facilities to clean the donations, more room for beds.   It seems the need for help is never ending. I vowed to step up and go back (with my sister and niece)because it brought me back to reality  and bought a new sense of humility into my life to be extremely grateful for everything that I have."

Kristijan Matic, In-Suite Dining Manager, The Venetian® | The Palazzo®: 

"It was such a pleasure to be part of this exciting challenge and be able to help with the healing garden. There is no greater pleasure but to give without expecting a return! "

Marlene Richter, Executive Director, The Shade Tree

Marlane"We will acknowledge “Go Purple” tomorrow (October 23) for Domestic Violence Awareness and The Palazzo® will be turning its lights purple to communicate the importance of peaceful and safe homes for everyone.  This is possible because of the connection with IMEX.  More lives will be saved because of even more tourists and locals seeing a strong message of awareness. Thank you for all that you do and for the many lives touched by this international partnership."


Host Sponsors

Sands Cares LogoSands Cares generously sponsored the cost of creating the new Healing Garden. The renovation was designed and project managed by The Venetian® l The Palazzo’s® Horticultural Department who have also committed to maintaining the garden in the years to come.


Ges _logo _no -name _cmyk

GES donated and constructed sheds in the garden for storage and for The Shade Tree’s animal shelter – Noah’s Animal House. 


Silver Sponsors

Hosts -Global -Alliance -Logo- Allied .tag .horiz .cmyk LVHA- Square Logo _3600x 3600 TI LV Horz FOIL R   

Bronze Sponsors


Participating Sponsors

  • Katrin Naumann, Another Koncept
  • Cheryl Brazier, Carlson Rezidor Group
  • Kay Johnson-Frutiger, Covance
  • Mandy Rinder, Koncept Events 
  • Hilary Smith, Koncept Events
  • Betsy Bair, MeetingsNet
  • Varena Jandak, Vienna CVB
  • Christian Mutschlechner, Vienna CVB
  • Judith Settele, Vienna CVB
  • Karen Kinoshita-Banas, Wyndham Hotel Group
  • Michael McAllen,
  • Thomas Kostoff, Sofisticado, Las Vegas
  • Jason Glascock, Associate Director of Sales, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino
  • Kara Yesilcimen, Destination Fabulous
  • Chris Meyer, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
  • Terri Meyer, CMA Planners

Individual Sponsors

  • Elizabeth Baranik, Hard Rock Café
  • Kim L. Van Delft, AAPG
  • Miguel Neves, IMEX Group
  • Linda Davis, Baskow & Associates
  • Stephanie Arone, Activity Planners, Inc.
  • Diane Herrmann, JNR Incorporated
  • Han R. Geskes, Aero Jet Services
  • Dale Hudson, IMEX Group

Special Sponsor

69393 Convention Bureau Logo 2 Song Division Logo 088155 DMAI 100Yr Fin1 2

Podcast Sponsor

AVfor Planners Logo