Bella Ludwig recently won a wedding package during the Bridal Show, Swap and Sale at Sauganash Golf Club in Three Rivers. But she’s only 14 years old.
But that’s okay since Ludwig had entered the drawing in hopes of winning the grand prize for her mother and her mother’s fiancé, Heather Chartrand and Garry Goins.
“When I called to tell her she had won, she was so excited,” said Grace DeMeulenaere, Sauganash public relations intern.
When Ludwig called her mother with the news, her mother couldn’t believe it but was excited that she and her fiance’ might finally have the wedding they had been planning for many years. Goins, upon learning the news from Ludwig, promptly told everyone in his workplace, to great congratulations.
When the couple came to Sauganash Golf Club with Ludwig, to collect their grand prize, they were overcome with emotion and expressed their gratitude for the gift. Chartrand was delighted to learn the grand prize included a day’s rental of the entire Sauganash Golf Club clubhouse, plus a circa 1960s wedding gown worn by Vicksburg resident, Karen Tooley.
Tooley, who learned about the Bridal Show, Swap and Sale in The South County News, called Sauganash Golf Club to see if she could donate her wedding dress to a deserving bride.
“She wanted to share her own fond memories of the dress and her wedding day with the new bride,” said DeMeulenaere.
Chartrand plans to have the dress tailored to personalize it.
“Mrs. Tooley will most definitely be an honored guest at our wedding,” she said.
The couple’s story goes back 18 years to when Goins and Chartrand met for the first time while visiting her mother in Three Rivers. Goins, who was close friends with Chartrand’s younger sister Tonya at the time, had never met Heather because she lived in Indiana with her father, Raymond Chartrand.
“When I met Heather, I sat down on the couch next to her and continued to inch as close as I could, and thought to myself ‘I like her’,” said Goins.
After a short time of dating, Goins moved to Detroit and the couple tried their hand at a long-distance relationship for about a year. The breakup was amicable, and the two stayed in touch throughout the years.
On Christmas night 2004, the two were driving to see Chartrand’s mother in Three Rivers when they slid off the road down a steep embankment and struck several trees at Lutz Road and M-86.
Chartrand suffered a traumatic brain injury, which led to some long-term memory loss. While some memories remain blurry for Chartrand, some occasionally return in bits and pieces, which feel more like dreams…like the one about the couple’s first official date.
“I had a dream that our first real date was at his place in Detroit with bologna sandwiches and candlelight,” said Chartrand. “Then Garry confirmed that the dream was, in fact, a memory of our first official date.”
In 2010, both Goins and Chartrand agreed that destiny was playing a role in their futures and their romance was rekindled. Goins and Chartrand have long planned to marry, but children, work and school fill all their time and they just haven’t had the time or finances to plan the wedding they wanted, according to Chartrand.
“This (the venue rental) is just what we needed to put us into action,” said Goins. “We were so undecided about so many things, we just weren’t making any progress. Now, we have a chance to make it official and begin wearing the wedding bands we bought a year ago.”
Goins and Chartrand now live in Kalamazoo with Chartrand’s three daughters Bella, 14 (who will take Goins’s last name in July), Ashlan, 12, and Becca, 9. Goins has two children from a previous marriage – Hayden, 11 and Alivia, 9.
Both Goins and Chartrand attend college full time; he is studying for his M.B.A. at Cornerstone University and she is currently taking classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College working toward a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Health Services in preparation for the Physician Assistant graduate program at Western Michigan University.
They have chosen Saturday, August 30, as a wedding date, and so far, two vendors from the Bridal Show, Swap and Sale have volunteered their services to the couple: Hayley Taylor, photographer; and Vickie Stewart, officiant. Other offers of support in goods or services for the couple may be directed to Cheri Bales at Sauganash Golf Club at 269-278-7825.