ELLENBROOK’S Aniwa Graham says she will be forever grateful for the kindness of dress shop owner Karen McConnell, who gave the bride-to-be her dream wedding dress last week.
Ms Graham had visited Bridal by Aubrey Rose twice before the boutique announced it would give away 35 dresses to women in financial need.
The ‘give back’ event attracted thousands of hits on Facebook in just two days. It allowed 35 women in financial need 10 minutes in the store to pick dresses worth more than $3000 each for their special day – free of charge.
“As I have third-degree burns to a third of my body, including my left arm, I was always so hesitant to wear formal dresses, especially a wedding one,” Ms Graham said.
“When I met Karen and her girls, they went above and beyond to help me imagine how it would look and even sourced a seamstress to take my measurements.
“They wanted me to feel comfortable and kept telling me how much they just wanted to help me achieve the vision I had for myself.”
But Ms Graham said the dress she had fallen in love with was way over her budget and buying it would have meant not paying off her car for a month.
She returned for a second time with her mum and found a dress half the price.
“My heart dropped though because it was still just a bit too much, but after two months of savings I would be able to get it,” she said.
“The only thing was it may have been bought by then and it would mean only two weeks before my wedding date to get alterations done. Both times, they made me feel beautiful and cared for in such a way that I knew their hearts were in such a good place to help brides feel amazing for their wedding day no matter what.”
Ms Graham decided she would camp overnight outside the store for the give-away.
“The whole experience waiting turned out to be quite life-changing,” she said.
“I made beautiful new friendships and heard lots of touching stories.”
When the doors opened at 9.30am the next day, Ms Graham said the 17-hour wait was more than worth it.
“I didn’t expect any dress in particular, I was just grateful for any dress,” she said.
“But they ended up giving me the very dress that I had fallen in love with, even though it wasn’t even part of the give-away selection.
“Receiving this amazing gift from Karen has helped me to save so much for my wedding and allows me to get sleeves now.
“I will be grateful forever for this; she has truly touched my heart and soul.”
Ms Graham will marry her fiance in December after a five-year engagement.