Terry Fator launches foundation, continuing a long tradition of championing charities
by John Katsilometes
Terry Fator is generous with his voice. The star ventriloquist throws it around freely during his performances at The Mirage.
Fator is similarly giving of his celebrity and ample resources. Among the wealthiest comic performers in the country (Forbes ranks him No. 8 in their latest list of top-earning comics with $18 million in sales and salary), Fator continues to give back with the newly created Terry Fator Foundation. Creating a foundation, and launching a partner website of the same name, allows him to raise funds and post regular updates for fans. One hundred percent of the money raised from selling t-shirts, puppets and other merchandise on the site, as well as at The Mirage, all go to charity.
Announced in September, just as Fator celebrated the 10th anniversary of his victory on “America’s Got Talent” and opening at Las Vegas Hilton, the TFF consolidates Fator’s various charity interests under a single organization. Since winning the “AGT” title, Fator has backed military-focused charities including the Airpower Foundation and Snowball Express, as well as the Arthritis Foundation and others. Fator has raised more than $1 million for charity during his decade headlining in Las Vegas.
“I’ve been focussed on the military because I’ve seen so much happening with our veterans, it just breaks my heart, to see PTSD and suicide rates off the charts and so many challenges facing those who serve in our military,” Fator says. “We have to support them and let them know, personally, by grabbing them by the hand and looking them in the eye to thank them for the courage they have shown.”
Fator’s interest in arthritis support is largely inspired by the untimely death of his sister, Debi, in 2014.
“This hits me very personally, as rheumatoid arthritis played a role in Debi’s death,” Fator says. “I’ve seen what that can do.” Fator is also emphasizing childhood cancer causes, as he has performed private shows for young fans who are too ill to make it to his stage production at The Mirage.
And, naturally, Fator is further delving into support of the arts, especially in Las Vegas.
“I had a very difficult childhood, with an overly abusive father, and my escape was to go to the local performing arts center and be in plays and find comedy wherever I could,” says Fator, whose family renovated downtrodden houses in his hometown of Dallas so they could live rent-free. “I want to raise money so kids have the opportunity to experience the arts, whatever their living situation is.”
Specifically, Fator hopes to perform a version of his road show at Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts to benefit local arts programs. He wants to give his puppet friends, Winston the Impersonating Turtle, country warbler Walter T. Airdale, and Elvis impersonator Maynard Tompkins, a chance to shine at the city’s heart of the arts.
“I want to do a show hopefully with Las Vegas Philharmonic behind me, with all the money raised going to the arts and maybe partner with The Mirage to involve them in benefit,” Fator says. “It would be a wonderful evening to raise money for The Smith Center’s arts program. I think it would be an awesome night and a blast to do it.”
Fator’s road show is different than his production at The Mirage, in that it’s autobiographical, running from his days working as a janitor and singing in a hair-metal band before starting his career as a ventriloquist. It concludes with his move to Las Vegas. As Fator says, “It’s an inspirational story, and if people want to see the sequel, it’s right there on the Strip.”