The past few months have been quite rough for people across the United States, with Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma devastating Texas and Florida, respectively. Unfortunately, the tragic events did not end there. As I sit here writing up this November issue of Wine Talk, it has been about two weeks since the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting. I remember turning on the television after dinner in Hawaiʻi and seeing the events unfold on every major news station as I sat in shock and horror. Having lived in Las Vegas for 5 years up until 2016, and spending 3 of those years working for MGM Resorts International, the news hit me quite hard. I had friends, colleagues and former co-workers who were directly impacted by the events, some whose lives have been changed forever. 

A little over a week later, in California, wildfires began to ignite throughout the state, doing damage across multiple counties in Northern California (Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocina, Nevada and Orange). Over 200,000 acres were burned, 5,000+ structures destroyed and dozens of wineries and vineyards ruined. NorCal has a special place in my heart, having been born and raised in California, and gone to school in San Luis Obispo.

So, why do I choose to relive these traumatic events? Because I would like to focus on the amazing power of the people whom I have seen come together during tragedies like this. Being that I am across  the ocean and nowhere near Las Vegas or California, there was very little I felt I could do to help. I checked in with all of my friends and former co-workers to make sure everyone was okay, and donated what I could to the donation funds. I followed the news reports and saw the community come together with each passing hour and day. 

The California wildfires this year have already proven to be amongst the worst yet. However, the state continues to stay #CaliforniaStrong. Many of the residents and other support has rolled in from all over to provide resources and shelter. While the smaller towns and counties in Northern California have the family-oriented feel, where the communities are known to pull together in times of need, Las Vegas isn’t as well known for that. Las Vegas is one of the entertainment capitals of the world, well-known for its gaming and “What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” Sin City reputation, and there are those who are of the mindset that there isn’t really a “community” in Las Vegas... that  it is just full of gambling and tourists. Well I personally attest that that is not the case at all. 

Even in the midst of writing this article, I am deeply moved at how quickly the community of Las Vegas pulled together to support each other. Las Vegas residents offered up their homes to those in need. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas set up an Emergency Operation Center, providing shelter, security, counseling, food and water to those seeking help. MGM Resorts continued to be a company I am proud to have worked for, as I heard of multiple MGM Resorts properties providing support services to the victims as well as to the property employees. Many Las Vegas-based organizations (MGM Resorts, Station Casinos, Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Boyd Gaming, Zappos, UFC, etc.) also pledged/donated large sums of money to aid the victims and their families. Many of my former co-workers, UNLV colleagues and friends donated and helped out where they could, giving blood, donating time and resources and countless other selfless acts. In less than two weeks, I saw the GoFundMe page set up by the Clark County Commission rocket to almost $11 million dollars. It was during these times that the hashtag #VegasStrong began trending, and truly lives up to its name. 

In the Hawaiian language, the word ʻohana means family. This extends beyond direct relatives, as it can mean extended family. Las Vegas will always be my ʻohana, as will California.  In the midst of this tragedy, please take the time to be thankful as the holidays draw near. Be thankful for those heroes who were selfless in saving others’ lives, for those servicemen and women who provided support to those in times of need, and continue to do so. Be thankful for those near and dear to your heart. 

Resilient. Community. Survivors. ʻOhana.

Together we will continue to be #VegasStrong and #CaliforniaStrong.

If you would like to donate, please go to https://www.gofundme.com/dr2ks2-las-vegas-victims-fund and https://www.gofundme.com/napa-sonoma-fires and use the direct donation options (to avoid fee charges), or donate to your local Red Cross, United Way and other volunteer organizations. 

Until next month, Cheers~