Casey Havens brought cheer wherever he went. Decked out in his trademark bandanas, the head chef at Rex’s Grill gave his heart and soul to creating a gratifying workplace for his team. He was a giver, who shared his passion for cooking with anyone who stepped into his kitchen.
Summer was his season to savor the Steamboat lifestyle, golfing when he wasn’t working. In March 2021, he took his own life. No one saw it coming. He’d kept his struggles to himself, striving to motivate others while a pandemic shut down his world. His Rex’s family made a promise to each his other; his pain would not be in vain.
The restaurant group is breaking new ground in the hospitality industry with mental health awareness. A fund has been created to offer financial support to all employees who need counselling, grief therapy and holistic wellbeing activities such as meditation and yoga. On December 11, 2021, all profits from food sales at every one of Rex’s Family of Restaurants was split between the mental well-being fund and local nonprofit organization, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, REPS. “Our community is struggling far more than I’ve ever seen and we need to support a lot of people,” says Mindy Marriott, the executive director for REPS. Since the start of the year there have been seven suicides in Steamboat Springs. REPS offers five free sessions with a counsellor to those in need. Since the beginning of 2021, 75 individuals have benefited from this service. “Keepin’ Casey Cookin’ is a great opportunity for people to support Rex’s employee health program and REPS, at a great time of need,” Mindy says.
Kelly Meuse, the manager at Rex’s Grill says the December event not only raised funds but will encourage staff and guests to talk about Casey and the need for more awareness surrounding mental health. “You don’t realize what your colleagues are feeling when they walk out the door at the end of a shift,” Kelly says. “The hospitality industry is all about making people feel good, it’s our job, but at some point, you need to turn off. Our goal is to make sure our staff feel supported, heard and valued.” It’s for this reason his team wants to get Cookin’, for a cause that could have saved his life.