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Man creates ‘Vegas Strong’ plaques after Las Vegas shooting

When Ken Beck saw the aftermath of the Oct. 1 shooting unfolding live on television, he texted friends who were there to ensure they were all right.

They were. Then Beck hopped in his car and raced to the scene to help people who were stranded get home.

“It was crazy seeing all the ambulances and (police presence),” he said. “One lady I took home had blood on her shirt. … I didn’t get home until 2 or 3 a.m.”

By day, Beck, 40, is a salesman for Xerox. His hobby is woodworking, and he sells his wares via Etsy.com. His two-car garage is filled with machines — a band saw, a router, a sander, a drill press and a miter saw. His business involves making cutting boards, swings and housewarming gifts for real estate agents. One extra bedroom holds his newest toy, a laser engraver that he bought used for $5,000.

Beck saw the Vegas Strong logo and decided to make a plaque to honor the victims. He cut pieces of wood into the shape of Nevada and added the Las Vegas skyline inside a heart. Sales proceeds will go to a victims fund, he noted.

At first, he made three and sold them to a family member for $25 each. He made 10 extra and added them at his Etsy site.

Orders kept pouring in. Each time he’d check his account, 100 more people had been added to the waiting list. In 18 hours, he had orders for 900 plaques.

Even with his father-in-law, Jim Bond, coming over almost daily to cut out signs, Beck knew it would take months for him to fill the orders. So, Beck posted on Instagram that he needed help.

“And my wife and I were leaving on our honeymoon a few days after this happened, so I put together an Excel sheet to (keep track of who was pitching in),” he said. “I had a ton of help.”

The list includes Peterman Lumber out of California, which donated lumber and discounted later purchases; 702 Laser, Lazer Ladies and 702 Savant, which helped with engraving; MPK Woodworks, which helped Beck with cutting and engraving; Tony’s Custom Wood Creations; JaJa Woods and Matt Gonzalez, who helped cut and sand signs; Andy Trent, a Route 91 concert attendee who helped sand signs; a Girl Scout troop that stopped by to package more than 200 orders; and Lindsay Watt, who helped deliver signs.

Some plaques were mailed off across the continent — to Florida, Illinois, even Canada. But 85 percent, Beck estimated, went to customers in the Las Vegas area.

“We had one order from the U.K., but the shipping was three times the cost, so they decided not to buy that one,” he said.

One of the buyers was Cayte Pattay, a former critical-care transport nurse for AMR ambulance company who’s now at Southern Hills Hospital. She transferred to Sunrise the night of the mass shooting because she had trauma experience. She ordered 38 plaques for firefighters and ambulance companies.

“I never thought something like that would happen here,” Pattay said. “It doesn’t matter the amount of training you’ve had; nothing can prepare you for a disaster of that caliber. … Everyone worked together so well. It was very heartwarming in a tragic situation.”

Her plaques are being personalized with the names of emergency responders on duty.

“I had to make those a tad bigger to fit all the names on them,” Beck said.

The laser engraving machine takes 22 minutes to complete one piece. It has been running nonstop to fill orders. Expenses include $4 for the wood, $1 per piece to Etsy and $6.52 for mailing.

Precut plaques are stacked in the garage and in the house, waiting to have words added.

Most look the same, with only a few being customized.

“We’d get messages on Facebook or Instagram,” Beck said. “I wasn’t going to read them all. Then you’d get one that was saying, ‘I lost a friend at the concert; can I get one?’ and I’m like, ‘Crap, I can’t ignore these messages now,’ knowing I might skip over one like that.”

He’d be up until 3 a.m. reading them.

A woman from Texas had won a “meet and greet” with Jason Aldeen, who was on stage when the shooting started. She ordered a plaque to give to the country music star when she met him. Another woman who ordered a plaque was the aunt of one of the victims, 20-year-old Quinton Robbins.

“So, it was the aunt asking if she could get one customized,” Beck said. “Normally, I’d say no … but that one, we put his name on it for her.”

He made three plaques for the aunt. He didn’t charge her for them.

“The whole idea was to help victims of this, so if the sign itself was helping, there’s no need to charge for those,” Beck said.

Beck estimated that after expenses, he should be able to write a check for $18,000 to Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak’s emergency fund or find some “we’ll double your effort” matching fund.

I’ve been “living in Las Vegas 20 years now, and there’s never been a sense of community here,” Beck said. “So, to me, it was really cool seeing people being proud to live here.”

Contact Jan Hogan at jhogan@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2949.

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