After her wedding was cancelled this spring, Jessica Leja was left with an unworn, $1800 wedding dress. Instead of selling it and recouping at least some of the money spent, Leja decided to donate the dress to someone special — specifically, a cancer patient or survivor that was engaged.
She just didn’t know who.
So she contacted her local newspaper, and they ran a story about Leja’s search for a deserving bride.
The response was incredible.
Leja had included her email address in the story, and soon emails began pouring in from people who wanted the dress. On top of that, a variety of vendors offered their services as well, from salons and makeup artists to photographers and other wedding services.
Leja’s act of kindness had inspired others to do the same.
Leja has worked as a registered nurse for six years, working in geriatrics for the first four years. But then cancer touched her life when her father was diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer at age 55. She acted as his nurse until he sadly passed away due to the disease.
A short while after his death, Leja was offered a position as an oncology nurse, and she accepted.
“My heroes are cancer patients: the fighters, the survivors and the taken,” she told Daily Southtown. “The admiration I have for them is beyond words.”
So when her wedding was called off, Leja knew she had to donate her dress, and it had to be donated to one of those heroes.
Her story and quest for a special bride hit the news cycle on June 17th. The next day, Leja got an email from a woman named Toni Robertson. Roberts is a 31-year-old woman who works with people with intellectual disabilities, and she has been battling breast cancer for about a year. She has a young son, and got engaged this past spring, with a wedding date set for February of 2019.
One of Roberts’ nurses encouraged her to email Leja with her story — and it’s a good thing she did! Leja knew almost immediately that she wanted to give the dress to her. But she didn’t make a decision just yet.
“I remember reading it and, to be honest, I knew right away this is my girl. Then I said I have to wait and give others a chance,” Leja said.
Leja read through countless emails over the span of a couple months, searching for the right woman to give the dress too. Ultimately, she went with Roberts. On August 19th, she Skyped with Roberts and let her know she had chosen her.
Leja read a poem that she’d written to Roberts to let her know she’d been chosen.
“Each and every word,
Of your story touched my heart,
Tears ran down my face,
I knew right from the start.
At 30 years young,
Cancer snuck right in,
But nothing can stop you,
This fight you will win …”
Leja and Roberts are meeting in Nashville over Labor Day Weekend to transfer the dress over and see each other in person for the first time.
Watch the video of Leja telling Roberts she has been chosen!
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.