When members of the Niagara Health team learned that a patient at our Walker Family Cancer Centre wanted to fulfill a wish of getting married on New Year's Eve, they immediately started planning.Alyssa Smith, 25, mentioned in November that she hoped to marry her boyfriend, Jeff Smith, on Dec. 31, with their five-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, by their side.
Within days, much of the wedding had been planned, thanks to the support of Niagara Health staff and a very generous community.
"It was surprising how everything came together and so fast," says Alyssa, who has a rare form of cancer called Grey Zone Lymphoma. "Because I was so sick I didn't even think I would be able to get married. If it wasn't for their support, we wouldn't have been able to have a wedding. A huge thank you to everyone.”
When they heard about Alyssa’s wedding wish, Walker Family Cancer Centre staff Sandra Angelini, Patti Wiens, Sandra Marshall, Helmy Flus and Gillian Mathieson contacted area businesses, which were quick to donate everything from wedding bands, a wedding dress, tuxedo, wedding cake, flowers and limousine service. Debbie Hedden, a family friend of Alyssa and a Registered Nurse at the St. Catharines hospital, helped arrange the booking of the wedding chapel, horse-and-buggy ride and hotel room in Niagara Falls.
Alyssa says the experience has given her a renewed sense of hope.
“It’s a new beginning, a new year. A new treatment could come up. Anything could happen,” she says. “I have more hope and try to stay positive about things.”
Her mom, Nicole, was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for her daughter.
“I want to thank everyone who made Alyssa and Jeff’s wedding possible. It was more beautiful than I could ever imagine,” she says. “What an amazing experience to watch my daughter feel overwhelmed by her circumstances and health to finding a renewed hope. It was amazing to see her have something to focus on other than her illness and that she is not alone and has love and support from the entire community around her.”
Family friend Debbie Hedden echoed those comments: “She knows she’s not alone. A whole community is behind her. It was awesome to see the community come together to fulfil her dream.”
Debbie also noted the support of members of Bethany Community Church – where Alyssa, Nicole and Debbie attend -- throughout the wedding planning.
Sandra Angelini, a Chemotherapy Booking Clerk at Niagara Health’s cancer centre, said she was amazed by the willingness of businesses to help make the wedding happen.
“The response was phenomenal. It was overwhelming.”
Helping fulfill Alyssa’s wish was extremely rewarding, says Sandra, who attended the wedding along with Debbie, Alyssa’s oncologist, Dr. Blair Leonard, and about 50 other people.
“It’s probably one of my best experiences in life – to be able to give like that.”
HERE’S HOW THE COMMUNITY SUPPORTED ALYSSA’S WEDDING WISH:
- VandenDool Jewellers in St. Catharines donated the wedding bands.
- Second Dance in St. Catharines provided Alyssa’s wedding gown, veil and jewelry and also the gown for the mother of the bride.
- Herzog’s Men’s Store in St. Catharines provided the tuxedo for the groom.
- A dress for Alyssa’s daughter, Elizabeth, was donated anonymously.
- Country Basket Flower Boutique in Niagara Falls donated flowers.
- Mermaid Limo Service in Hamilton provided transportation.
- Debbie Hedden’s niece used travel points to book Alyssa and Jeff a hotel room in Niagara Falls for New Year’s Eve.
- The wedding happened at the Two Hearts Wedding Chapel in Niagara Falls, at a discounted rate.
- A wedding cake was donated anonymously.
- A helicopter ride, courtesy of Niagara Helicopters, on New Year’s Day capped off an amazing weekend for Alyssa.
- On the wedding day, Alyssa had her hair and makeup done by Jennifer Schaffer, a clerk at the Walker Family Cancer Centre, while Sandra styled Nicole's hair. Sandra also provided the wedding favours.