Ross teen gives her ‘Dream wish’ to her mother for wedding day
The bride and groom danced to John Legend’s song “All of Me” in the driveway of Applebee’s in Ross.
Antoinette Woods and Mark DeLorenze mouthed the words to each other as they swayed to the music after their wedding ceremony Friday afternoon outside the restaurant, a sentimental spot, because the couple reconnected there in 2008.
About 40 guests watched the couple take their vows at 1 p.m. near a busy commercial stretch of McKnight Road.
“It’s amazing to finally have something I waited to do forever,” said Woods, 44, of Ross.
This was the day dreamed by Antoinette’s daughter, Jenevieve Woods, 17, who has mitochondrial disease. Given the chance for a wish, she dreamed of a wedding for her mother.
“I’m forever in debt to my mom for all the financial things she has done for me. I want to give my parents the sun, the moon, the stars,” said Jenevieve, who will be a senior at North Hills High School.
Jenevieve, Applebee’s and the McKeesport charity Jamie’s Dream Team arranged the ceremony.
Jenevieve has an inherited form of mitochondrial disease, which she got from her mother. Her brothers Jesse, 20, and Joshua, 14, have it to a lesser extent.
Mitochondrial disease affects about one in 5,000 people. Mitochondria, found in nearly every cell, are the body’s energy factories. People with the disease face a sort of power outage that could lead to early death.
Jenevieve chose Applebee’s because Woods and DeLorenze, 51, happened onto each other there in 2008. He had been sitting at the bar and remembered her from a one-minute encounter at a West View gas station in 1984 from her eyes — “I couldn’t take my eyes off them,” he said.
At first, she was skeptical, but he supplied so many details, she began to believe him.
Jenevieve chose the wish prior to starting a second phase of a trial of an experimental drug to slow her disease.
She is the first person in Pittsburgh and one of 10 in the country to receive the drug during this stage, said Dr. Gerard Vockley, chief of medical genetics at Children’s Hospital and the leader of the study in Pittsburgh. Hospitals in Boston, Toledo and San Diego also are taking part.
Vockley said if this phase works, all the patients, including those on a placebo, will get the real drug.
“If we could make her muscles stronger, her thought processes clearer, help her to be better able to eat and digest food, that’s going to make a big difference for her,” he said.
If it doesn’t work, she will get other experimental drugs. And if they don’t work, Jenevieve hopes the experiment eventually helps somebody else.
“If this doesn’t work, then I have to let go of the disease, and if I die, I die,” she said.
One of four bridesmaids, Jenevieve was propped up by new stepsister, Melissa, as the couple exchanged vows. Rev. Richard Freeman, pediatric chaplain at Children’s UPMC, presided. He met Woods almost 15 years ago when her son Joshua was born and struggled with medical issues.
When Jenevieve was 2 1⁄2, she still couldn’t walk. Her therapist warned that if she did not try to walk, she might lose her ability to move.
Her mother encouraged her first steps by making a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and pink sprinkles.
“Every single day for a month, I made a cake to get her to move,” Woods said.
Now, Jenevieve and the rest of the family will join the bride and groom on their honeymoon to Presque Isle in Erie. The couple will live in Ross.
After years of dedicating herself to her children, her new husband helps her relax, even act goofy.
“I was broken,” Woods said. “He came in with the glue to heal me.”
Bill Zlatos is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6353 or [email protected].