Chance encounters are a staple of every great romance — usually it’s between the betrothed, but it’s important not to be sticklers about such things.
Before getting into any of that, it’s important to know that Jessica Glick had an idea for an event.
As the owner of J. Rose Bartending in Bellefonte, this did not qualify as unusual, but the altruistic spin she wanted to place on this particular piece of intellectual property most definitely did and would therefore require more than the standard amount of elbow grease to make it a reality.
Enter Mike and Heather Benjamin, the proprietors of Benjamin’s Catering in Boalsburg, and Scott Sheader, better known around town as DJ Shooter.
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The four had all crossed paths before on the event circuit and were familiar enough that Glick felt comfortable pitching them the big idea that would become A Toast to You: A charity event, once per year, where participating vendors donate their services in honor of an amazing person doing amazing things.
The reaction was immediate and unanimous.
“I was like, ‘that’s a great idea. I was on board right away,’ ” Sheader said.
There were still questions to be answered, of course, details that needed ironing out before any serious steps could be taken — but that was all right. The group had decided to take a year to further develop the initiative before they thought about potential candidates.
And then, two days later, in walked the girl.
It was February and Ali Warren had come into J. Rose Bartending looking to lock down an element crucial to her impending summer nuptials.
Warren and her fiancé, Forrest Rothrock, met in the fall of 2012 after both joined the Alpha Fire Company at approximately the same time.
“Forrest grew up outside of Pittsburgh and I grew up in State College, but we’ve both been firefighters since we were 16. We already had a well-developed common love for the job when we met,” Warren said.
They became engaged in December 2014 and spent the next year or so dreaming about their perfect wedding day. By the time that Warren met with Glick, the firefighter already had a pretty good idea of what she wanted the event to look like.
That left plenty of time for small talk.
Warren told Glick about her career as an inspirational speaker and self-published author, both of which were rooted in her experiences as a survivor of sexual assault and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Overcoming those obstacles has allowed Warren to talk with authority and insight about topics ranging from suicide prevention to gender equality at speaking engagements across the country.
By the time their conversation had concluded, Glick was astounded by all that the young woman had accomplished, the same kind of positive energy she had first envisioned when conceiving A Toast to You.
“She was the embodiment of everything I was imagining,” Glick said.
It didn’t take much to convince her partners to accelerate their timetable from a year to just less than six months.
There was a lot to accomplish, beginning with breaking the good news to the bride and groom.
“I was in absolute disbelief when she told me Forrest and I had been chosen,” Warren said. “Telling Forrest and then telling my parents will always be one of the coolest memories.”
For their venue, the couple had already selected the rustic General Potter Farm in Spring Mills. Warren and her family had been extremely organized in their approach to the wedding, but it would be up to the gang from A Toast to You to get the event on its feet during the height of their busiest season.
“To create an event like this is really to create a platform for people to show the best in themselves,” Glick said.
Benjamin’s Catering donated all of the food, and Sheader took on the DJ/MC duties. The list of additional vendors who contributed includes Fasta & Ravioli Co., Trader Joe’s, Delectable Delights, Bee Tree Berry Farm, Abby Drey Photography and W.R. Hickeys.
For Glick, all of it culminated in the breathtaking moment that she saw Warren in her wedding gown for the first time.
“It’s like she’s got a light that shines from the inside out,” Glick said.
As for the happy couple, they both agree that the day surpassed their wildest expectations. Husband and wife were touched by the gesture of goodwill from a community they have spent years serving.
“When someone calls 911 you are expected to come and resolve whatever their emergency may be,” Rothrock said. “I never want to let someone down, which is what inspires me to train often and be fully committed to this job. It was really nice to be recognized for what we do.”
The newlyweds are in the process of moving to Philadelphia, where Rothrock will continue to work toward his goal of becoming a career firefighter and Warren will be able to work more closely with the organization she speaks for, Minding Your Mind.
Back in Centre County, Glick said the plan is for A Toast You to continue indefinitely. A search for a new candidate is expected to begin some time in the next few months — applicants might even be asked to answer an essay question or two.
Whatever shape the next event takes is anybody’s guess, but chances are that there could be a few new vendors involved.
“I really want to motivate businesses in the area to step out of their comfort zones too,” Glick said.