The bride will be wearing white-white running shorts, T-shirt and white athletic shoes-as she pledges her troth in what may be the first wedding race on record, at least locally.
Mike & Sandy's Run for Your Life 5K Trail Run/Walk and Wedding Celebration will truly be a fairy tale wedding, set for Saturday, May 13 at 5 p.m. at Halpatiokee Park in Stuart. Guests can run or walk the scenic lake course along the wood chip trail. Then, following the race, Mike Melton and Sandy Shoemaker will marry and host a barbecue dinner.
Here comes the groom: If you've ever run a race on the Treasure Coast or in surrounding areas, you probably know Mike Melton. He's the very tall, entertaining gentleman who most frequently greets you as you run or walk across the finish line, calling out words of encouragement and recording your finish time.
Vice president of the Sailfish Striders Running Club, a Treasure Coast tradition that hosts or assists in dozens of races each year in our area, Mike lives and breathes running. When he's not offering financial investment advice in his real job, he's running marathons or ultra-distance runs.
It's only appropriate that he met his bride-to-be at the races, where they found the easygoing camaraderie that sweating together brings.
His story: After watching Sandy show up at races for a year with her boyfriend, Mike's eagle eyes noticed immediately when she showed up without him. He chatted her up the way he talks to everyone. Being the gregarious guy that he is he found out she and her boyfriend had split up.
But, after the second time he saw her alone, he thought, "This girl won't be on the market long." So, he made his move.
He called and left a message on her machine.
"If this is the Sandy Shoemaker who runs 5K races, please call me back."
She, after thinking it through, returned his call and the romance was born.
Remembers Sandy, "I liked the way he was at races, how he talked to the kids and, really, to everybody; he knew everybody's time and whether they were having a good or bad day. I thought this was a person I would like to get to know."
From their first date, Mike and Sandy clicked and last Christmas, after a year of dating, Mike presented her with a ring, set with two pearls, black and white, to "remind her that I have a good and bad side, I'm not perfect, but I love her."
In his typical, can't-do-anything-in-a-normal-Melton style, he inserted the ring into a chocolate candy.
She opened the box of chocolates and said, "Oh, that's great, we both love chocolates, thank you."
He said, "You know what Forest Gump says, 'Life is like a box of chocolates, you don't know what you get until you bite into it.'"
And so Sandy found the ring and said she would marry him, anyway.
Her story: She is a self-proclaimed gym rat, who discovered running later in life and found that despite a history of asthma, she was good at it. A walk-in clinic nurse, Sandy is devoted to her occupation but has plenty of interaction at work with her walkie-talkies (the patients at a walk-in clinic).
Her kids are grown-up, and she is used to being on her own, with a schedule as predicable as, well, a grown-up living on her own. After work, she likes to settle down with a Diet Coke and a good book. She loves Mike but would be happy to just skip the big wedding entirely.
Enter Mike, who likes to jet off for out-of -town races or set the alarm clock for 4:30 a.m. for a long distance run, who knows everyone in town and wants to invite everyone to their wedding. This is the genial big fella who helped her train for her first marathon last year, a year ago January.
The nephew: Garrett was 9 when a pain in his leg turned out to be bone cancer.
"One day he was complaining about a pain in his leg, my sister took him to the doctor," remembers Sandy. "The doctor took an X-ray and sent them straight to the oncologist. One day he was a healthy kid; the next day he was dying."
After four years dealing with surgeries and losing his hair 3 or 4 times, the cancer was back with a vengeance, in his chest and in his brain. His Aunt Sandy drove over to the Tampa area often to spend time with him or baby-sit his younger brother while he was in the hospital. Once a budding baseball player, Garrett would never live to run a marathon, so Sandy drove straight from her marathon finish in Orlando, to Tampa to bring him her finisher's medal.
Unfortunately, Garrett's condition had worsened, and he was in the hospital on a ventilator, unconscious. The 13-year-old died before Sandy could give him the medal.
"No kid should die of cancer," Sandy says.
So, she has been raising funds for the organization started in his memory, the Garrett Staples Osteosarcoma Research Foundation.
That's where Sandy got the idea: Mike wanted a big wedding so he could invite everyone, she didn't want a fuss. She wanted to raise money for Garrett's foundation; he wanted a wedding where the whole family, including his 10-year-old son, Dan, could play a part.
So Mike & Sandy's Run for Your Life 5K Run/Walk was born. All proceeds from the race will benefit the foundation.
"Mike knows everyone, and they were all asking, 'Am I invited to your wedding?' Now everyone is," says Sandy.
Garrett's mother, little brother, his tutor and other family members, including his dog, are coming from Tampa to run the race and, not incidentally, for the wedding. Sandy's family, Mike's family, and the running and walking community invite everyone who wants to help prevent bone cancer to join in the race. Entry fee is $15 until May 7 or $20 after that date or on the day of the race and application are available online at www.sailfishstriders.com or at Fleet Feet Sports in Jensen Beach.
Or join the happy couple for the wedding celebration, where dress is casual and both the bride and groom will be sweating.
Sue-Ellen Sanders writes about family issues every week in the Hometown News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.