Hurricane Harvey destroyed homes, cars and many other things, but one thing it couldn’t destroy is the compassion for others in newlywed couple Gilbert and Stefanie Cruz. Gilbert and Stefanie were set to get married just a few days after Harvey passed, but due the storm’s aftermath they had to alter all of their plans on a moment’s notice.
Instead of soaking in the disappointment of having to change plans for their big day, the couple decided to take the opportunity to help everyone around them who had suffered due to the effects of the storm. During the week of their wedding, they requested that everyone who had planned to attend their ceremony give that time to help the community. Together, they organized volunteer opportunities for their family and friends to assist with clean-up efforts, assist with the needs at local shelters and donate at a blood drive they organized thanks to a suggestion from Gilbert’s sister Crista, who is a Donor Support Coordinator at The Blood Center.
The couple hosted their blood drive at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital Friday, Sept. 1. The drive had 80 individuals donate or attempt to donate, 30 of whom were first-time donors. The Blood Center collected 78 components during the drive, which had a major impact on assisting with the restoration of blood components after the storm.
The idea to host a blood drive was a no-brainer for the couple because Gilbert underwent a surgery earlier in the year that caused extreme blood loss. Although he did not end up needing a blood transfusion, the fear that blood components may not be available if needed was an eye-opening experience.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in all things wedding, in large part because they have become such big events. We kind of got caught up in that ourselves, but when Harvey came around it was a good reminder that it’s not about a big party, music and all of those other things, but it’s about us committing to the each other and the people we want to be,” Stefanie said.
“You should always do everything you can to help save lives because it’s the right thing to do, but Gilbert’s experience really helped highlight just how important donations are. Us being able to shed light on the need for blood and save lives together was a great experience,” Stefanie said.
Everything that the couple organized as part of their “new wedding” was a major success, not only because they all had a major impact on countless people, but also because it helped them to ultimately have the wedding of their dreams despite the adversity.
“It wasn’t what we thought it would be, but we were still able to get married. Everything we did was an easy way for us to be impactful, and create memorable experiences. There are so many things that neither of us will never forget about our journey. It may not be what we planned, but we enjoyed every second of our experience, and are now living our happily ever after,” Stefanie said.