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Collins turns cancelled wedding into happy ending for Make-A-Wish

Johnston resident Dana Collins had her fairy tale wedding planned and paid for, scheduled for July 21 at the Westin Hotel in Providence. Collins didn’t get her happy ending, but thanks to her generosity, some children in Rhode Island will.

When she and her former fiancee called off their wedding in January, Collins decided to turn her wedding into the “Our Wish For You” gala, a charity event to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“I thought, ‘what better to make a negative into a positive than to help children with terminal illnesses?’” Collins said. “I love making people happy, making people smile, and these children don’t have that opportunity.”

The venue, DJ, photographer and florist had all been booked, with roughly $15,000 already invested into the event. Rather than cutting her loses, Collins contacted Make-A-Wish to see if they would be willing to work with her. Paula Montgomery, Rhode Island regional director for Make-A-Wish, admits that she was somewhat speechless at the offer. It was a first for the non-profit, but after speaking with Collins, she said signing on was a no-brainer.

“Dana reached out to us and shared with us her story. She didn’t want to walk away from that but instead wanting to do something good with it, and we’re the fortunate benefactors of her generosity,” Montgomery said.

Collins will not recoup any of her costs on the wedding, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward Make-A-Wish. According to Montgomery, 80 cents of every dollar raised for Make-A-Wish goes directly to granting wishes for sick children. Still, the Wish program isn’t cheap, and over the last year, the non-profit has seen an increase in the cost of granting wishes, from flying families to Disney World to helping children meet their favorite musician. The average cost of a wish is $7,500.

“Money raised here in Rhode Island stays here to grant wishes,” Montgomery added.

Last year, Make-A-Wish granted 48 wishes for children in Rhode Island, and a total of 390 wishes throughout the Massachusetts and Rhode Island chapter.

Collins does not have a personal connection to Make-A-Wish but felt compelled by the cause.

“I wanted to do something with children. I’m going to make a difference in their life and make their wishes come true,” she said. “It’s going to be a fairy tale event, but for the kids.”

The mission resonates with a lot of people, Montgomery said.

“Any time you have children going through horrific experiences that take away their childhood in many ways, there’s an automatic connection,” she said.

Collins said she has always been interested in event planning, and has hit the ground running on this fundraiser. Tickets are $50 per person, which will include dinner, dancing, a raffle and a silent auction. The gala begins at 7 p.m., and Collins promised some surprises, including visits from Wish kids, which she said she is especially looking forward to.

“I can’t wait. There’s a few surprises from some of the Wish children so I’m hoping that really touches the lives of the people in attendance,” she said. “It’s just going to be a good time for a good cause.”

Silent auction items include Red Sox tickets, sports memorabilia and various baskets. Collins has been working with her wedding vendors to tailor the event for the charity. Peter Diozzi and Groove Entertainment are providing music, Twigs Florist is providing the flowers and centerpieces and Sara Zarrella will run the photo booth. Collins’ good friend Rob Antonson will serve as emcee for the event.

“She’s really owned this event,” Montgomery said. “She knows the impact that our mission has on these children and events like this create greater awareness for the organization, which is always a wonderful thing … and then of course the other benefit is the funds that are brought in.”

Collins has sold 60 tickets so far, but is hoping to double that or more, as the Westin ballroom holds more than 300 people.

“I don’t want everything to go to waste,” she said. “I want it to be special; I want it to be a success.”

To purchase tickets to the Our Wish For You gala event, call 744-2784.


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