#StayHomeSeries: Local Wedding Planner Donates Time To Brides Whose Weddings Have Been Cancelled

A couple’s wedding day is one they look forward to from the moment they realize they’ve found “the one”. The months (or for many couples, years) of planning leading up to the big day can be a whirlwind of emotions from excitement at the moment of proposal & celebrating milestones in selecting the perfect vendors, to the more stressful times in juggling family emotions, vendor contracts, finances, and somehow staying on the same page with your significant other. Yet no couple could have possible prepared for the shock of a global pandemic changing every detail they’ve worked so hard to perfect. For those couples going through the heartbreaking decision of cancelling, postponing or drastically changing the happiest day of their lives, it can take a heavy emotional toll. That’s where one wedding planner saw she had an opportunity to help.

When I first met Sandy Brooks of Timeless Event Planning on the steps of the Harborview Hotel in Edgartown, I somehow felt that I had not just hired a wedding planner, but was about to make a good friend. As we casually sipped mimosas overlooking Lighthouse Beach where my husband & my engagement photos were taken, Sandy and I went over every detail of what our dream wedding day would look like. By the end of our conversation, it was impossible to imagine that just an hour before our new wedding planner had been a total stranger and there was no doubt in my mind that she was the person I trusted to guide our wedding planning journey.

While you’d never know it based on the personal attention she gives to each and every client to make your wedding the only one just like mine did, Sandy Brooks had 12 weddings booked for 2020. Yet with the Coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation or postponement or all major events, the bi-coastal wedding planner is now down to just four left on the books: and she understands better than anyone how painful her clients’ decisions to cancel or postpone have truly been. Engaged to be married herself June 20th, 2020 on Martha’s Vineyard, Sandy too had that difficult decision to make. “I have a different perspective on what I think is going to happen because I am a bride-to-be myself,” she explains. “I’m living everything as well and so for me, it’s about my business, but it’s also about being fair to my clients.” With her wedding date right around the corner, Sandy knew that not only she but all of her other brides would have to act fast.” The second I moved my wedding, I promised my July brides I’d call them first and explain my decision and why. Even if the ban is lifted, there will most likely be restrictions on events and we just can’t see us having the wedding we have been creating the past two years. My fiance’s family, groomsmen and friends are coming from CA which makes us worried. His parents are 70 years old and my dad has been sick the past ten years, making this decision even harder.”

As she has been navigating the re-booking of her own wedding while continuing to guide her clients, Sandy began to receive message after message with brides-to-be all asking the same question: What do we do? “There’s a lot of brides on the island that were getting married on our same  weekend, and people asked how I made my decision.” While normally consulting a wedding planner is a paid service, Sandy found she couldn’t turn away from the brides’ cries for help. “The first thing I had to ask is: Do you have a wedding planner? I didn’t want to step on any toes!” she explained. “I wanted to be a friend to these girls because if they can’t even afford a wedding planner, who do you come to? Your photographer or florist might have an answer of what they think based on their business, but I’m actually engaged and going through this with all my vendors, too.”

So, what advice did she give? “It’s really important to make a backup plan early and ask vendors to put a soft hold on those dates as couples will not only be competing with 2021 brides for dates, but other 2020 couples that are forced to reschedule,” explains Sandy, who was heartbroken to learn that one of her selected vendors wouldn’t be available for her new date once she rescheduled. Not only can it be stressful emotionally to lose a vendor, but there’s also the task of re-sending the stationary, re-working the guest list to adapt to any changes in who may or may not now be able to attend-all while facing any fees involved with these changes. Fees, Sandy says, can be a touchy subject with couples already spending a fortune on their dream day. Thankfully, Sandy has the unique perspective of both a bride and a vendor to help explain why some charges make sense-and others don’t. “My industry is suffering so much, which is why people are trying to keep their September and fall weddings in place,” she explains of how vendors are losing money as cancellation after cancellation of their summer events roll in. “Some want to keep waiting and waiting, but I think just being really honest on your perspective and having a plan will put their minds at ease.” For one of Sandy’s clients, a vendor had refused to move an already set wedding date. Yet suddenly, a grant became available and all move fees were able to be waived. While it can be frustrating to understand as a couple already experiencing a worst-case wedding scenario of a mandated cancellation, Sandy knows that while some clients can’t afford the extra fees, vendors are scrambling to salvage the little business they can. “I know what it feels like, so it’s really hard for me because I have to explain to my clients why they have to charge. Many vendors will need to pick up side jobs if this doesn’t end soon. Most of us live paycheck to paycheck. we are just coming out of our off-season and were really needing these events to survive.” The good news for brides? Some companies that are in a position to help are being very understanding, such as printing companies offering complimentary postcards to send out to guests with the new dates. “There are vendors out there that don’t just want money. I love talking to people and hearing stories, and telling mine. It’s a really hard time that people are going through.”

Being such a heavy subject, the reactions from those Sandy has talked to have been “extremely understandable,” she says. “The first bride I had to move, I got on the phone and she was like, ‘Wait your texts aren’t bubbly, whats going on?’ We talked it out, and she wanted to move the dates so I came to her with a plan. At first she was fine, but then she started bawling so I just knew we had to say ‘Okay, grab a glass of wine, we are going to do this together!’ ” How has Sandy advised her brides to cope with this stress? “You have to take it week by week. Start making guests lists of 50 people, then 100 people as there could be social gathering restrictions. Ask yourself, would even be the wedding you would want?” Yet moving the dates isn’t for everyone. For some brides, Sandy says, a 2020 wedding is taking on a whole new form. “Know that you can still get legally married this year, and party the following. One of my brides is also a wedding planner, and they decided to do a styled elopement in Palm Springs,” she explains. “Have your day to bawl your eyes out about these changes, make brownies, then the following morning make coffee and make a list of ten positive things happening in your life. You WILL get through this!!”

#StayHomeSeries: Designs For The Front Lines

“How can I say thank you?”

It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves lately as we’ve watched our friends, family members, and so many others step up to save those fighting against the deadly Coronavirus. For each day a healthcare professional walks into their workplace, they do so to care for those who can no longer care for themselves only to leave at the end of their day exhausted mentally and physically, drained from a day of saving lives. For each and every one of them, we are a grateful nation. Yet how do you thank someone for doing a hero’s work? For one local Framingham woman, that answer was to donate her talent to create a special gift to be given by the grateful to those who deserve a reason to smile at the end of their day.

Trisha, the Founder of SDesign Jewelry that is handmade in Framingham, started her journey many years ago after discovering a new passion while running a successful boutique. “I began making jewelry for charities, and that kind of spun itself into something a little bit larger,” she explains. “As that was happening, my daughter was getting bigger and I thought, you know what I think I’m going to for now close the store and I’m going to for now make my jewelry company as big as I can while I was a stay a t home mom taking care of my child.” S Design, named after her daughter, was born.

While her work today has kept her incredibly busy, Trisha couldn’t help but notice as heroes day in and day out left their homes and families to help fight on the front lines of the Coronavirus outbreak-and knew she had to do something to help. So, she did what she does best: she got to work designing the perfect gift to not only give back herself, but encourage others to submit their own heroes to receive a gift. “I released our COVID 19 Strong bracelet program. We have a “Share Your Hero” tab on our website because number one, we want to know who YOU want us to donate to,” Trisha explains. “It’s really a spiritual armor bracelet initiative, and for every bracelet purchase a bracelet is donated to a local hero.”

What does the bracelet look like? A stunning sterling-silver bracelet, hematite was selected as the featured accent detail thanks to its reputation for healing qualities. “Hematite helps to absorb negative energy and be calming in times of stress or anxiety. It is widely coveted as a protective stone known for stabilizing a person’s energy with its grounding force and turning negative energy into positive vibrations to create hope.”

Even the packaging for the bracelet is unique, and has been designed specifically for the hero receiving it with a card thanking them for their service and reminding them that each bead serves as a pillar of strength to support them throughout their day: Community, Resilience, Courage, and Compassion. For those who opt to purchase the piece for themselves, a “COVID-19 STRONG” message is sent thanking the wearer and reminding them that their purchase has supported the donation of another piece to a local hero. From classic black and white boxes with bows to soft drawstring bags and even a glass case, the packaging itself is nearly as impressive as the pieces. Trisha says that’s for a reason: she specifically hand-picks the packaging based on the piece and to whom it is going.

Want to see what her work looks like? Check out my full video below to see an unboxing of S Design’s STUNNING pieces, and visit her website www.sdesignjewelry.com to nominate a local hero (and maybe get one for yourself, too!):

“It’s really a spiritual armor bracelet initiative, and for every bracelet purchase a bracelet is donated to a local hero. When we package it to go to the hero, we package it differently. ecaucse the most important thing tjhey need to know is that their braceltt was given to them by a grateful memeber of their community.

#StayHomeSeries: Lasers Helping Lasers

For students all over the world, college is affectionately known as “the best four years of your life”. Highly anticipated all through high school where many work hard for years to save money, get their grades up anxiously await that coveted acceptance letter, college is a time meant for studying, learning all you can about the career path of your choice, and maybe staying up a bit too late making friendships for life. Just two months short of what would have been for many seniors a celebrated graduation, the entire lifestyle of college has changed.

With many campuses closing their dormitory doors and moving to online courses for all, it is a challenging time for students who have been forced to move away from their friends and entire new, independent life. Yet for some, this drastic change of pace means more than just going home to be with families a bit earlier than they’d planned: for those who rely on resources at their college to get their work done, it can mean a loss of means to continue their studies. For those who work on campus, it can mean a loss of income to pay for their car, phone, or other bills. Far worse, for those who are international students with nowhere to go or come from a low-income family, it can mean homelessness.

“We had alumni and parents, faculty and staff reach out when the COVID-19 started to impact our student and the question they all asked was, ‘What can we do? How can we help?’ So this Lasers Helping Lasers relief fund really is in response to the community asking that question,” explains Chelsea Gwyther, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at Lasell University. “We worked with a student who left his residence hall when this pandemic hit, and moved back with his family in a homeless shelter outside of Boston. Unfortunately, that shelter doesn’t have Wifi so this student takes his 18-year-old car and drives a couple of times a day to a Mcdonald’s parking lot so he can participate in his online classes. The determination of that student is just incredibly inspiring to all of us, and we’re committed just like he is to making sure that all students have access to a great education at Lasell.”

So far, alumni and friends of the college have gone above and beyond in their generosity to help support the local students. “The response has been absolutely phenomenal. Over $85,500 has been donated for this fund and that is going to go directly to helping students who are impact by this and helping the institution manage unplanned expenses by the pandemic.”

Interested in donating? Watch my full interview with Chelsea below to learn more, and visit https://www.lasellalumni.org/s/61/16/index.aspx?sid=61&gid=1&pgid=2068 to make your donation!

#StayHomeSeries MASK. MATCH. CHALLENGE!

Who’s up for a challenge you can do from your couch?! Everyone? Okay, good.

Let’s start by introducing you to David, the Founder of DocPPE that launched an incredible new startup in response to the need of extra masks not only on our front lines, but in our communities. A software developer for 20 years who has founded his own companies and attended law school, David was inspired by his wife who witnessed the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) herself working as a physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. As she continuously shared her concerns, David being an entrepreneur himself felt compelled to do something.

“From start to finish, we’ve been doing this for four weeks. I had the first design done in 4 days, tested within five.” David’s team, which consists of several family members, friends & manufacturers, also includes his wife: she donated her two weeks’ vacation time to devote it instead to getting the necessary supplies out as quickly as possible. “We’re working night and day to get these things out,” he explains. “My wife is a great woman and donated her vacation time to make masks. I don’t know how you get much better than that, to be honest.”

An American-made product with a facility right at home in Boston, David says he’s been taking calls constantly. “It’s crazy because we have a live chat on the site so it comes to me directly. I’m the one who answers, I’m the one who’s there and people are like: Are you real? Ae you in America? Is this a real thing?” The skepticism, he says, is understood. “Because everybody buys this stuff online and they’re not getting it, they want that assurance that they’re actually going to get what they pay for.” To ease concerns, David has taken to giving out his personal cell phone number. “We’re for the people, by the people.”

So, what’s this challenge we’re talking about? If you are able to donate anything from $5-$500 (of course, more is always welcomed!), David will match that donation of masks to go to either front line workers or Navajo Nation, who do not have access to PPE. “If you donate 500, we’ll match it with another 500. When friends start sharing with friends making this a competition to get it to healthcare workers on the front lines.” The response so far, he says, has been overwhelming as they have partnered with Blue Sky Entertainment to get well-known athletes like Andrew Raycroft & Charlie Coyle to show their support. “Everybody’s starting to come out and they want to help. It’s so nice to see the communities, the personalities and different celebrities come out and want to help people.”

So far, DocPPE has been able to donate supplies to Boston hospitals such as South Shore, Beth Israel, and Mass General Hospital. Want to join in and help? Donate here and challenge a friend to do the same!: https://docppe.com/donations/

Helping From Home: Miss Pink Organization Asks For Cards

It’s the reason why places like Hallmark make so much money: a simple card is a quick and easy way to say everything from I love you, to happy birthday, or even just a ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’ The thing we forget from time to time as we rush between soccer practices and parties or back and forth to the grocery store for toilet paper is that ultimately, it’s the thought that counts. Which is why I’m encouraging you to grab whatever you have on hand regardless of if that is a stack of blank cards, construction paper and markers, the whole family or a friend over FaceTime to get started on making someone’s day just a little bit brighter.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we all know that people around the world are struggling in many different ways. At the Miss Pink Organization, they understand the everyday struggle of those who have had or are currently battling cancer to both avoid the virus at all costs to protect their weakened immune systems while still receiving chemotherapy treatments. “Right now, anybody going to a hospital to have chemotherapy or anything relating to fighting cancer- you’re going in by yourself. Most of the time that’s a 5, 6, 7, 8 hour day hooked up to a machine. At this point, I don’t even know if they’re letting them walk around in the hospital. They’re just there with nobody to hold their hand, nobody to talk to,” says Fabianna Marie, Director of Pink Warrior Relations & Miss Pink 2017 who is a survivor herself. What originally started as an idea to set up a team to FaceTime the warriors blossomed into a major mission: collecting handwritten cards from as many people as possible to help bring a smile to those going through treatment. Fabianna told me about one of the warriors she recently spoke to, and why she believes these cards will make such a big impact. “She’s 28 years old with a one year old child. When she was going for her infusion she was all alone. For her, me FaceTiming helped- it just made the difference between sitting there and feeling so bad for yourself hooked up to a machine where you know you’re going to be sick afterwards and then let’s put the pandemic on top of it all.”

The pandemic has added a never-before-seen level of stress for many of the warriors Fabianna has gotten to know through the Miss Pink organization, including herself. “When someone is immunocompromised, it changes everything,” she explains. “You don’t look immunocompromised on the outside, so nobody understands that I’m still going through it if I go outside the house. It’s a huge deal to stay home and be proactive with your own health when lot of people aren’t worried that .” Her own family has had some very difficult decisions to make in recent weeks. “My husband has been a Boston foreman on a construction site, and was the only one going outside the house. His major concern was, nobody else could bring (the virus) into our home other than him. So for him, it was the push and pull of: Do I go to my job and make money for my family, or do I stay home and take that worry off our plate? Until the government put that ban into place, he had planned to tell his boss that he would prefer to be laid off. He was scared,” she admits. Yet through this struggle, Fabianna is well aware that she is far from alone. “Anybody that’s going through that, we’re all scared. There is no other way to put it because we don’t know about tomorrow. We don’t know where this is going at this point.”

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: There IS something you can do about it! Just making a card with sweet notes of encouragement can bring a moment of peace to those who need it most. It’s a simple action that can not only help you pass the time during your quarantine (BIG SHOUT OUT TO YOU if you are staying home to protect others!!!!) but also serve as a fun activity to do with the kids, your significant other, or your best friends over video chat. If you have a bit extra to spare, you can even go the extra mile of chipping in a gas or grocery card for your warriors to help them make it through this time financially as well.

To see mine, check out the video I made below! (Please be kind as I test out a new editing tool this week working solely from my smartphone.):

More about The Miss Pink Organization: Our mission is to relieve stress of the financial burden that can occur during cancer treatment. This can be due to leave of absence from work, lost income or fixed income. We offer support through meals, childcare, cleaning services, gas and grocery cards, and other special circumstances that can interrupt the effectiveness of treatment on a case by case basis. 

Their Turn To Give: Assabet Valley Technical High School Donates Unused Supplies To Healthcare Professionals

A table of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at Assabet Valley is ready to be donated to local healthcare facilities.

MARLBOROUGH- With schools officially closed until at the earilest April 7th, Assabet Valley Technical High School Principal Mark Hollick found something while he was walking the empty halls of his school: an abundance of unused, brand new personal protective resources in a time where his community-like many others- is in need. “Everybody is calling for gloves, face shields, N-95 masks, so we just did a basic inventory of what we have. We’re out of school for at least three weeks, and have a number of programs including Health Technology and a Licensed Practical Nursing programs. In that, obviously, they have lessons and do all kinds of practical applications and scenarios where they have to wear this protective equipment. So we knew that we had some equipment in the building, and even in other areas that I didn’t even think about but made sense: Auto Collision, Auto Technology, and in Culinary Arts for rubber gloves.”   

​​Jumping into action, Hollick sent a message to his staff to see how they could help get their resources out to the local community. “I put out a message to all our staff members-we’ve had staff working from home and as our maintenance team has been cleaning the building room by room- so under their direction, I’ve been going in with a cart and collecting all of the supplies we can donate.” Thanks to their help, Hollick was able to locate enough resources to make sizable donations to both Coleman House in Northborough and Marlborough Hospital. “At the end of this, we anticipate that we will have donated 12,000 protective gloves, 95 of the N-95 masks, 120 pairs of eye protection, 200 medical gowns, and 200 other face masks,” says Hollick. “We know these facilities have been asking for them so it’s really just getting to the needs of all the different local partnerships we have in our local community.” 

Boxes of supplies en route from Assabet Valley Tech to Coleman House in Northborough.


Assabet Valley’s 20-year relationship with The Coleman House, an elder care facility in Northborough where students have been doing clinical hours, was the first to receive a major donation. “When Kathy Reagan (of Assabet Valley) made that donation, what she described to me was Patrick (of Coleman House) was almost in tears because of the generosity,” says Hollick. “They’ve done so much for us, and this is a time where we can give back a little bit.”

On Wednesday morning, the high school plans to donate a second round of supplies to Marlborough Hospital. “It’s the overall Assabet spirit to rise to the occasion when the community calls out for something. We always try to the best of our ability to  be a good neighbor, and a good partner in the community.”