RIVERVIEW, Fla. — Shannon Keil was a young bride. Very young.
“I was 16. I was 16,” she said, chuckling while telling the story. “We are married almost 30 years now. So, I found my Prince Charming early.”
Her father stitched her wedding dress by hand after picking out the material. She was married in her grandfather’s church. From her teen years, she’s understood the special moments that come from that sacred ceremony.
It’s a big reason why she’s been helping others make their wedding day memorable for 25 years.
“We are crazy busy,” said Keil, who has worked as the CEO at The Regent for three years. “We are number two in Tampa for all weddings.
The veteran event planner is thankful the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn to a close for the majority of Americans. Events have returned to The Regent, including weddings. Just before the pandemic began, she was given 26 dresses from a local company.
“Almost two years ago,” she said.
The dresses came from Satin & Lace Bridal. Originally, the donated dresses, which were all demo dresses, were going to be given away as part of a scavenger hunt in the community. COVID changed those plans. For two years, the dresses sat on hangers at The Regent.
“We never intended to keep them this long,” said Keil.
Now, she and others in her office have devised a plan to get the dresses on deserving brides.
“These dresses are going to healthcare workers. They are going to people who gave and gave and gave while the rest of us had to sit still,” said Keil.
Health care workers (or one of their family members) from Brandon Regional Hospital, just a ten-minute drive away from The Regent, will be eligible to submit their name for dress consideration. Keil has asked that anyone interested in one of the 26 dresses email her their inquiry, along with a 500-word statement describing what it would mean to them to receive a wedding dress.
“Everything that I’ve ever done in my whole entire life, it’s been about trying to find the point that brings people joy,” she said. “I hope at the end someone finds a joy that they couldn’t find before through a dress.”
Dresses come in various sizes and styles. Keil’s hope is to find the perfect match for brides in the health care industry to serve as a "thank you" for all the hard work they have done during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know that there are people who are going to come in here and they may have went through COVID and maybe not had income come in or something and the fact that I have a dress here that will be good for them makes me happy.”
Emails for dress consideration should be sent to SKeil@TheRegentFL.com. Applications will be accepted through September 1. A pool of applications will be filtered by a committee and women will be chosen then.
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