Colleen Fairchild knew she wanted to become Colleen Fairchild Henderson, and the desire became more urgent after a slight setback early in the winter.

The trick was actually making it happen, even with a simple ceremony – such was the complication due to advanced lung cancer.

On Sunday, Feb. 28, a group of people that two months ago had been strangers to Colleen made it happen, giving her a wedding far exceeding her dreams.

Former high school sweethearts and Independence residents Colleen and David Henderson were married at Berry Acres north of Odessa off Route 131, and nearly all the planning came courtesy of vendors who donated their services and made arrangements to the couple's surprise.

Knowing she was on a tight budget, all Colleen wanted was a rustic barn setting, hay bales and some Christmas lights. “But this worked,” she said. “It was gorgeous.”

“Way far beyond my dreams,” David said of the wedding. “It's hard to even find words to describe it. They're just extremely nice people, all of them.”


A snowball effect

Plans came together with remarkable speed less than two months ago after Nancy Lynn posted on Facebook about her desire to put together a wedding for her close friend whom she considers a mother. Fellow Centerpoint nurse Sarah Miranda tagged hair and makeup artist Melissa Blayton of Pro Artistry in Kansas City.

Blayton forwarded the message to a network of several other wedding vendors the evening of Jan. 12. Before long she had the venue from Angela and Alan Berry, flowers from Heather Dixon (Dixon Design in Blue Springs), invitations from Kari Burkholder (Two Turtles Paperie in Olathe, Kansas), a cake from Meribeth Pittman Boone (Aunt Mary's Cookies in Kansas City), pictures from Elizabeth Ladean Photography (Kansas City), frames from Angela Judy (Independence) and video by Beau Vaughn Photography (Lenexa, Kansas). Dave Hackett served as the officiant.

Blayton relayed the good news to Lynn the next day. Lynn has since been able to raise some funds to cover the post-ceremony meal.

“In about 12 hours we had about everything donated,” Blayton said. “It was crazy how many people had come together.”

On Jan. 20, Nancy took Colleen out for lunch, then to Berry Acres under the guise of quickly dropping off a birthday gift for Angela Berry, a cousin of Lynn’s. Several of the vendors had gathered there, and they surprised Colleen with an invitation to her own wedding.

“I literally had no idea (what was happening),” Colleen said, recalling that afternoon. “I had to read it three times before any of it soaked in.”

Angela Berry said it was an emotional moment for many vendors.

“I cried,” she said. “My mom's a cancer survivor, so it has a special meaning. Lots of tissue boxes laying around. She was kind of blown away.”

They got Colleen's opinion on a few details, but the for the most part arrangements all had been made. Paring down a guest list was far more difficult than breaking the news to David, she said, given his cool, laid-back demeanor.

“I was just in total awe, just couldn't believe it on one hand. On the other hand I was just happy for Colleen,” he said.


Long time coming

Colleen and David had dated through their senior year at Chillicothe High School, but after their graduation in 1981 he moved to Texas and she stayed in the Kansas City area. They each got married and divorced a couple times (there are 11 combined grandchildren from their previous relationships, including her two for whom she has custody), and while they had little contact they maintained a fondness for each other.

“The friendship's never gone away; it's always been there,” Colleen said. “The timing just wasn't right.”

In 2010 they started to reconnect through Facebook, communicating more frequently after Colleen's cancer diagnosis in January 2013. In early 2015, David was able to move back to the area and lined up a job in pest control, and the couple finally reunited.

“I thought about her very frequently throughout the years,” David said. “I just kept catching her at the wrong times. This time, my dream finally came through. It just goes to show you never give up on your dream. I'm probably happiest man on face of earth right now.”

He feels that way even knowing that Colleen's cancer likely will take her sometime. Colleen says she doesn't care to know what stage her cancer is in; she'll just roll with any setbacks and live each day as much as she can until God decides.

“You know how they say, 'Live every day like it's your last,'” she said. “I do believe that.”

“He walked in with eyes wide open,” she said of David, “knowing what he was getting into with my kids (10-year-old grandson Jayden and 7-year-old granddaughter Justyce) and my health. They have a mother, but we are their parents, and he's not walking out on them.”

As for the vendors who made the wedding possible, they considered it an honor and privilege to take part in such an event.

“It was awesome to be involved in,” Berry said.

“I've worked with lot of brides,” makeup artist Blayton said. “And to be part of something like that – all she wanted was to marry her high school sweetheart, the love of her life, even in a backyard. I don't think we really get how significant this is for her. It's like you're her fairy godmother.”

Colleen had been a mother-like figure to Lynn’s younger sister Laura Lynn, who died in 2012 after a multi-year battle with ovarian cancer (which was chronicled in multiple Examiner stories). The family made sure Laura's ashes were at the wedding ceremony, and Colleen wore Laura's boots while Laura's daughter carried her mother's hat.

“It was perfect,” Colleen said, adding that Feb. 28 was two days before her late father's birthday, and Jayden mention him when giving her away at the ceremony. “A day like Sunday couldn't get any better. I'm just not used to seeing that in people. People just aren't like that now. … They gave me a new life. They treated me like I was paying them the full price. It was amazing.”