June 12, 2013 at 10:29 AM ET
Megan Acord grew up in Moore, Oklahoma. She went to school there. And she couldn’t wait to get married there. But those dreams fell apart when her father’s home — where she no longer lived, but where she still kept some of her belongings, including her wedding dress — was leveled by the tornado that struck Moore last month.
Though Megan and her husband, Justin Acord, who serves in the Air Force, had already had a quick courthouse ceremony to secure their commitment before the military assigned him to another base, they were looking forward to a more formal wedding where they could celebrate with friends and relatives.
Megan had already picked out a dress and decided to store it at her father’s house so that her husband wouldn’t be spoiled by accidentally seeing it before the wedding.
But when the tornado hit, Megan didn’t think about her wedding dress. She was glued to the news, realizing that the tornado was inches away from her childhood home.
“I found out my dad was OK by seeing him interviewed on national news,” Megan told TODAY.com. “That’s how I found out my dad was alive. That was one of the scariest moments of my entire life.”
A few days later, she and her father went through the rubble, trying to salvage anything they could. But there wasn’t much to salvage, and Megan’s dress was nowhere to be seen.
Enter Laura Hilgenfeld. Hilgenfeld and her husband Brian own the Chick-Fil-A franchise in Moore where Megan works. After hearing her story, Hilgenfeld wanted to do something to help. She contacted BeLoved Bridal Boutique, a bridal shop in nearby Norman, and told them that she wanted to purchase a wedding dress for her employee.
Lindsay Gasaway, one of the store’s owners and an Oklahoma native, took the call. She knew then that she wanted to help Megan too.
Last Saturday, one of Megan’s friends suggested that they go out to lunch, which turned out to be a surprise visit to BeLoved, where a local TV crew was waiting inside.
Gasaway had contacted Australian designer Stella York, who told the boutique owner to let Megan try on all of her dresses and choose the one she wanted for free. Megan found what she calls “her dream wedding dress” among York’s creations.
“When Laura surprised me with the new dress, I just broke down in tears,” Megan said, of the dress, which has a sweetheart neckline with a lace layer on top. “[BeLoved] helped me experience what every girl should experience, getting my dream dress and my dream wedding. I started crying because I felt so blessed and thankful.”
Megan's keeping the new dress under wraps, for now — she'll show it off to Justin for the first time when they walk down the aisle in August.
While she and her family are still rebuilding their home and their lives, Megan's new wedding dress and her upcoming big day are giving her plenty to smile about. “I have had so many people come up to me and say ‘This is the story I really needed to hear,’" she said. "I know people need to hear something positive.”
A dress isn’t the only gift Megan has received. After the local TV segment aired, Megan also got an offer for a free wedding cake and for free photography on her big day. But she still insists that the part of her wedding she’s most looking forward to is her father walking her down the aisle.