When Jenny Porter and Corey Maillette celebrate their wedding in November on an old farm near the White Mountains in Fryeburg, Maine, they’ll also celebrate their first anniversary.
That’s because Jenny and Corey were married Nov. 27 in a ceremony quickly planned by the Recreational Therapy staff at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital so that her father, Wayne, could be there. Wayne was battling cancer when he had a stroke in September that led to difficulty with balance and coordination.
“His doctors referred him to Mary Free Bed to focus on rehabilitation,” said Jenny, who grew up in Battle Creek. “From the start, we had discussed having a small wedding in Michigan before our Maine wedding if my dad’s health declined.”
Jenny connected with Brie Taylor, a recreational therapist at Mary Free Bed, who rallied her team to make the wedding happen.
“Brie went above and beyond coordinating the details of our wedding a mere week in advance,” said Jenny, who lives in New York City, where she works as a research assistant at Queens College. “We’re still in awe of all the amazing people who came together for us at a moment’s notice.”
Brie called it part of the Recreational Therapy team’s job.
“We were so appreciative of being asked to help,” Brie said. “This is what we do. We’re a very creative team, and we’re encouraged to think outside the box.”
Rachael Stacy, who plays piano for her church, learned several songs for the ceremony. Jenny Baweja, who enjoys baking, used a Mary Free Bed kitchen to make a two-tiered wedding cake. Lisa Bloom, a Grand Valley State University student interning at Mary Free Bed, offered to get ordained so she could marry Jenny and Corey.
As Brie made arrangements, Wayne’s health quickly declined and he needed to be transferred from Mary Free Bed to acute care at Mercy Health St. Mary’s Hospital. She collaborated with his medical team, which provided two staff members to care for Wayne during the ceremony, held in the fifth floor conservatory of the adjacent Lacks Cancer Center.
“We wanted to make it happen for them,” Brie said. “We were blessed to be able to be a part of it.”
Jenny called it a “crazy, emotional day” attended by about 30 people, mostly her family and friends who live close by. She wore a simple white dress she found on a department store clearance rack, her great-grandmother’s pocket watch and emerald earrings from her mother.
Rachael played “Kissing You” by Des’Ree as Jenny walked down the aisle with her father. Jenny and Corey wrote their own vows, and her brother read one of their favorite poems, Pablo Neruda’s “Your Laughter.”
“The ceremony exceeded our expectations and proved you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have an unforgettable wedding,” Jenny said.
The day’s most special moment happened as Rachael began to play “My Girl,” by the Temptations.
“When I was little, my dad would sing ‘My Girl’ to me,” Jenny said. “He wasn’t strong enough to dance, but I sang it with him and held his hands while Rachael played. It was by far one of the most meaningful moments of my life.”
Jenny and Corey will renew their vows Nov. 5, the day they originally intended to get married in Maine, where Corey is from. He said the staff at Mary Free Bed showed them “true Midwestern hospitality.”
“My dad passed away December 9, just 12 days after our wedding. Without the staff at Mary Free Bed, he wouldn’t have been able to see us get married or escort me down the aisle,” Jenny said. “We can’t thank them enough for their endless generosity. Having my dad there meant everything to us.”