NORTH WILDWOOD - Irish Weekend 2019 began differently for a special couple. It would kick off with a wedding proposal at the Angelsea Pub.
According to a release, Damien Given asked his girlfriend, Kelly Ann Hebert, for her hand in marriage, and her answer was an astounding, yes. Their wedding would launch the 2020 Irish Festival.
This was fitting for this fun-loving, Irish couple. Unfortunately, life had other plans.
Prior to their engagement, Kelly started to experience difficulties with her balance and speech. Tests revealed Kelly, 34, had Bulbar Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, an aggressive form of ALS.
Kelly bravely accepted her diagnosis, staying devoted to her mantra of "you only live once," also known as her "YOLO" tour.
As unfair as life would have it, Kelly's tour and wedding dreams became derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brides around the world scrambled to reschedule their venues, but this was not an option for Damien and Kelly.
Their venue could no longer host their event due to social distancing regulations. They turned to the North Shore Bar and Kitchen for assistance to accommodate their guest list of over 300 people. Despite their best efforts, the North Shore was unable to obtain the needed permits.
With the couple’s wedding date over a month away, North Wildwood learned of Kelly and Damien's story from a resident. As the news spread, the town started to create magic.
The couple’s friend contacted several people on the island, Alyssa Jones (Icona Resort), Puri Garzone, (Inlet), John Little/Joe Byrne (Seaport Pier), Joe and Colleen Lerro, (Joe Joe's /Taco and Tequila). She enlisted help from Bill O'Connell (Cape Island Reality), who contacted to Bill Bumbernick (Surfing Pig), Theresa Allendorf (Elks Lodge), and Kelly Nigra (Shore Club). All had valid concerns over the size of the venue and COVID restrictions.
Her final effort was to email Patrick Rosenello, North Wildwood's mayor, asking if he would reconsider Ryan Fitzpatrick's (North Shore Bar) request to close down one block to accommodate the event or perhaps suggest what "could" be done to help this couple have their wedding. The mayor suggested a creative option, a city parking lot to host an outdoor event with the North Shore filing for an offsite catering and alcohol permit.
Daniel Spiegel, construction and fire official, assisted to gather the permits, Russ Rents supplied rental details, and the information was shared with North Shore’s manager, Kristen Mahon.
Within days, North Wildwood and the North Shore gave Damien and Kelly the gift of a lifetime. The rehersal dinner would be hosted by the Angelsea Pub, bringing this event full circle.
Their evening was no longer just a celebration. It was a time to slow down and reflect on what mattered in life. It provided a chance to witness perseverance, commitment and faith, in one of the most uncertain, challenging times of the couple’s life.
It opened eyes to living life to the fullest while being present in the moment. The night enlightened many on what unconditional and unending love looked like and what defined strength and devotion.
One of the most memorable parts of the wedding came in the form of a text message from Damien the morning after the reception, which was a picture of a handwritten note that was a wake-up call that people are truly great and North Wildwood, its officials and business owners were like no others.
Many were left speechless by the kindness displayed by the Fitzpatrick Family and their extended North Shore Bar and Kitchen family.