Former Farmington man starts fund for Las Vegas first responders
Fund would help pay for gift baskets to thank first responders at the Las Vegas shooting
FARMINGTON — A former Farmington resident who survived the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas, Nev. has started a fund to give gift baskets to the first responders who responded to the shooting.
Chad Robertson, 38, with the help of others has started the Las Vegas First Responder Thank You Fund with the goal of raising $100,000 to make and deliver 1,000 gift baskets to first responders, including law enforcement, firefighters and nurses.
It's important for Robertson to recognize the hard work and danger the first responders faced as they ran into the festival grounds amid the gunshots fired by Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 people on Oct 1.
"Those guys are victims as well," Robertson said in a phone interview. "They'll have a hard time going through things."
Chad is the son of former Farmington Deputy Fire Chief Phil Robertson, who worked for the Farmington Fire Department for 20 years.
He graduated from Farmington High School and is the vice president of employee benefits at Moody Insurance Agency in Denver, Colo.
Chad and his wife, Jennifer Robertson, reside in Northglenn, Colo.
It was the second year for Chad and Jennifer to attend the three-day country music festival at the Las Vegas Village.
The couple was on the southwest corner of the property near the Mandalay Bay Resort, about 60 to 70 feet from the stage where Jason Aldean was performing.
Jennifer said in an email the couple got married at the Mandalay Bay Resort on March 21, 2005.
Chad initially thought he heard fireworks but he looked up in the sky and didn't see fireworks exploding in the sky.
He then saw Aldean run off-stage.
"I knew right then something was wrong," Chad Robertson said.
Chad grabbed Jennifer's hand and they started running away from the stage.
The couple spent a couple of seconds pushing against the crowd when everyone started running as another wave of gunfire started.
"We just saw people getting shot," Chad Robertson said. "As we were running, we saw people get hit."
Scared the gunfire might be from a gunman on the festival grounds, the couple briefly laid on the ground and pretended to be dead.
A short period of time passed before they got up and started running again towards the northern portion of the festival grounds, across the street from the Tropicana Las Vegas.
The couple wedged their bodies between a hot dog cart and a generator near a mesh fence to protect themselves from the gunfire.
After hiding in that spot, the Robertsons got up and ran toward the festival entrance.
Chad and Jennifer exited the festival grounds, crossed the street and entered the Tropicana as they heard the sound of bullets ricocheting off the street.
The Robertsons hid in parts of the Tropicana, including a kitchen and women's locker room, before being allowed to exit through a back entrance.
Shortly after leaving the Tropicana and walking near the MGM Grand, the couple witnessed a group of people flee the MGM Grand after hearing a report of a gunman possibly at the hotel and casino.
It prompted the Robertsons to return to the Tropicana and hide again.
Members of the SWAT team found the couple hiding along with others and they were escorted to the hotel's convention space.
It was about 4 a.m. on Oct. 2 when people were allowed to leave after a lockdown was removed, Chad said.
Investigators offered a new version of events in a shifting timeline surrounding the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history as they described how the gunman opened fire on nearby fuel tanks, concert goers, and security guard. (Oct. 13)
The Robertsons returned to their hotel rooms at the Elara, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club resort, about 5 or 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 2.
After taking a shower, the couple started calling family members to tell them they were safe.
Brian Robertson, Chad's brother and owner of Speedin' Motorsports in Farmington, got a call about 10:30 or 11 a.m. on Oct. 2 from Chad.
"It was all tears," Brian Robertson said about talking to Chad following the shooting.
After returning home, Chad was eager to find a way to give back to the first responders.
He struggled to establish a fund with a bank and discovered the amount of time and effort it takes to form a nonprofit 501c3 organization.
The project came together after Chad met Melody Mesmer, a co-founder of the Foundation 1023 nonprofit, on Oct. 6 at an event in Arvada, Colo.
The organization provides mental health and wellness services for first-responders.
Foundation 1023 is helping the fund by handling the financial operations. A website for donations was launched on Monday.
Mesmer said it's been amazing to help out the fund and that it provides an opportunity for Foundation 1023 to provide information on the services it provides.
"(First responders) go into places people are running away from," Mesmer said.
The fund has raised $9,288 as of Friday afternoon.
Chad has had talks with several companies to provide items including books and the materials to make the baskets and shipping for the baskets. He also has volunteers ready to assemble the gift baskets.
He sees the baskets as an inspiration to help first responders get back to living their lives.
You can donate to the fund at http://bit.ly/lvshootingfund or https://www.classy.org/campaign/las-vegas-first-responder-thank-you-fund/c149155.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.