A steady stream of caring members of the community filled the parking lot of Don Perico Mexican Restaurant Saturday afternoon, filling their plates with street tacos in support of a fundraiser held for a local woman who survived being shot twice in the Las Vegas mass shooting Oct. 1.
The owner of Don Perico held the fundraiser for Rachel Sheppard, 27, who has been employed as a waitress at the restaurant for the past four years. The money will go to Sheppard and her family to help defray medical costs and other expenses while Sheppard remains hospitalized, which doctors say will be for at least five more weeks.
Inside the Mexican restaurant, tips jars where sitting out for donations as well. Sheppard's friends, who were with her at the time of the shooting, created a large get-well poster for the public to sign, and plan to give it to her later this week. The poster was positioned just inside the dining area of the bar, and was surrounded by photos of Sheppard and her friends in happier times before the shooting.
Appearing at the fundraiser was Serena West, who was with Sheppard at the time of the shooting, and narrowly escaped getting shot herself. West looked beautiful as she greeted her employer, friends and well-wishers, and said she is doing better in spite of the ordeal.
"She's breathing on her own now," West said when asked how Sheppard is doing. Sitting and holding her daughter, Layla Haycock, 3, in her lap, West adds, "She just has a long road to recovery ahead."
West said she plans on returning to Las Vegas to visit Sheppard in the hospital in about a week or two.
Outside, as employees continued to serve the street tacos to the gathering crowd, a television news crew pulled up and recorded the event.
"We are happy here because people are coming and showing their support even before we held this fundraiser," said Daisy Guevara, restaurant manager.
It was too early to tell how much the tips jar generated or what the final count would be on the street taco fundraiser, but patrons shared their belief that it would not be enough, no matter the total.
"This just breaks my heart," Lucy Garcia said as she stood waiting in line. "I'm buying the tacos, and throwing in a little extra, but I wish it could be more. I have a daughter who is almost her age, and I keep thinking this could have happened to any of our daughters."
At the same time, a second fundraiser for Sheppard was being held across town at the Doghouse Saloon. Owner Cliff Suazo spent the afternoon grilling barbecue tri-tip, and plans to donate the proceeds to Sheppard as well. Saturday night at 9 p.m., Suazo will host a candlelight vigil at the Doghouse Saloon, and invites the public to attend.