I was just about to continue my series on Thomas Jefferson and public education, when I read Jen's story. (I'll pick up that series again in two weeks, after I highlight another amazing story of sacrifice and leadership.)
Last December, Jen went to her doctor with a cough, and the young hairdresser was diagnosed with pneumonia. When the cough persisted, doctors ran more tests and discovered that Jen had stage 4 lung cancer, according to the New York Daily News.
After five months of intense treatment, Jen's doctors had to bring her the unfortunate news that it wasn't helping and that she had six months to live, at the most. Jen and her family were, of course, devastated, and so was her fiance, Jeff Lang.
But Jen wasn't ready to give up. With a positive and hopeful push forward, she let it be known that there was something that she wanted more than anything else: to marry Jeff. So she told her fiance: "Let's get married. I want to focus on life."
With virtually no time to plan, Jen discarded her dream wedding and settled on a small ceremony in her parents' backyard, with a few folding tables and a barbecue reception.
That's when Bay Area wedding planner Erica Ota heard of Jen's situation. Ota decided to call up her reserves and offer Jen the wedding that she had dreamed about since she was a young girl.
In just 12 days, Ota recruited more than 30 vendors, who donated about $50,000 worth of products and services, including a jazz band and a parade, which was planned by Jen's neighbors, according to NBC Bay Area.
The reception would be garnished with hundreds of feet of lighting so it would look "like a fantasy land," Ota described. And the tables would be decorated with Jen's favorites: succulents -- beautiful and tough drought-tolerant plants and flowers, just like the fighter she is.
Ota explained: "It was my goal for them not to pay a dime. I thought to myself, 'These people have already suffered enough. Why not be able to give them a gift, a wonderful gift that they and their families will never be able to forget?'"
She added: "The thing is they're such simple people -- so positive and so hopeful -- and they didn't ask for anything from anybody. But they deserve this and more. ... They are truly wonderful people with good hearts and good souls."