Offers are pouring in from complete strangers to help Eli and Cheryl Clark hold the wedding ceremony they never had.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said family friend and organizer Michele Mongrue after the Lincolnton, Ga., couple’s story appeared in The Augusta Chronicle on Aug. 30. “It’s just overwhelming, from so many that have offered just to come help, to say how touched they were by the article.”
Eli and Cheryl Clark, both 25, were married five years ago in a courthouse ceremony in Lincolnton and always talked about having a real ceremony to renew their vows.
About three years ago, Eli began having seizures and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the past year, the tumor has begun to grow more aggressively and the seizures have become more frequent.
The couple’s finances have been devastated as they shuffle back and forth between Georgia Regents University Cancer Center and Duke University for scans and treatment.
As Eli has gotten sicker, the idea of holding the ceremony with family and friends – and finally having wedding photos and video to cherish – became more urgent.
Mongrue now plans to hold it Saturday in her backyard.
The couple’s story “just grabbed me,” said Carroll Kelly, of CareSouth Hospice. It took her back to when her husband was killed in a car accident in 1987.
“After that happened, and even now – 25 years later – I go back and look at the pictures and those are the tangible reminders of that time,” she said.
She and colleagues at CareSouth got to work contacting friends at local businesses and soon Simon’s Formal Wear was on board with donating tuxedos for Eli, his father and father-in-law, Kelly said.
“They’re very appreciative,” Lan Barrett, the operating manager for Simon’s, said of the couple after fitting Eli for his tuxedo Friday.
Deep Roots Floral and Wedding Designs is donating a bouquet and corsages, and CareSouth employees are chipping in to provide the tent, Kelly said. Colleagues are volunteering to work as servers during the ceremony, she said.
“Everybody just enthusiastically grabbed this,” Kelly said.
People have been coming out of nowhere to provide services, Mongrue said.
“This is an honor,” said the Rev. Rudy Brostrom, of Gazebo Weddings in North Augusta, who offered to perform the service for free. “We felt they needed somebody and we wanted to do that for them.”
Others have offered cupcakes and one woman offered to make 100 cakepops or gourmet cookies on a stick as favors for the guests.
“Isn’t that sweet?” Mongrue said. “That takes a long time to do that.”
Another man, who is retired military, said he is bringing 30 pounds of barbecue.
“He did not even ask me,” Mongrue said, laughing. “He sort of did not give me an option.”
Photographers have stepped forward to augment the photographer covering the event. Others are offering things from their own wedding or their wedding businesses, she said.
To get so much help from strangers, “it’s just overwhelming,” Mongrue said.