Jennifer Darmon fulfilled a lifelong dream Saturday afternoon when she walked down the aisle and said “I do” in a Windsor courthouse. Paralyzed after a 2008 car accident, she underwent intense therapy at the Detroit Medical Center. Darmon was afraid of falling until she locked eyes with the love of her life. Then, everything was perfect. “It’s so nice for everybody to be able to see the end result, all the work I’ve put into it over the last couple of years,” Darmon said. Darmon stood through the ceremonywith the help of a walker, which lasted about 10 minutes.
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Mike Belawetz, Darmon’s new husband, says he’s proud of his wife’s accomplishments.
Paralyzed from the hips down after a car accident, Darmon wore leg braces under her strapless white gown and took the first step down the aisle, carefully holding the arm of her father, Alan, and her brother, Kevin.
“I’ll take this slow, sweet walk with you,” her uncle Tony Darmon sang, trying not to cry through a song written by Edwin McCain.
Jennifer Darmon moved slowly down the 40-foot aisle before 190 friends and family and a throng of news media inside Mackenzie Hall, a historic courthouse in Windsor.
She moved past Liz Richmond, her rehabilitation trainer at Detroit Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, where she first learned to crawl and then moved up to walking with braces. “I’m so proud of her,” Richmond said. “I was crying and used up my tissue.”
Richmond had helped Darmon stretch out her muscles before the wedding. “She was a trouper, just like always,” Richmond said.
Darmon moved past her physical therapist, Phuong Vu.
“It was so emotional to see her accomplish her goals,” Vu said. “She has been working on this for almost a year. We are so proud of her.”
Frances Jack of Guelph, Ontario, an family friend who had seen Darmon’s first steps as an infant — on Jennifer’s first birthday — wiped away tears. “Today was like watching it all over again,” she said. “I’m way beyond happy.”
And then, Darmon looked up and saw Mike Belawetz, the love of her life, the man who refused to leave her after the July 27, 2008, car accident that left her paralyzed. “I saw Mike and everything was great after that,” she said. “I kept watching him.”
The Rev. Robert J. Verkoyen, a pastor at Rock of Help Christian Centre in Essex, Ontario, told the bride and groom that they had been “shining examples” of love and commitment.
“No tears left the eyes, but it stirred a bit,” Belawetz said. “I knew she could do it. I’m proud of my wife. Her accomplishment. It feels great to be here today.”
“It’s been a long journey,” he said. “But I couldn’t be prouder than I am today. It’s Jenn’s character. She does not give up. She will not let anything deter her from her goals.”
After the accident, Jennifer Darmon told her father that she was upset that she would never walk down the aisle. “Today proved that you can achieve anything you set your mind on,” Alan Darmon said.
Carla Darmon, Jennifer’s mother, couldn’t hold back the tears: “When it first happened, it was devastating. Today? Top of the world. It’s a great day.”
After the ceremony, Belawetz lifted his bride and carried her down the aisle. She smiled and kissed him gently.
He said it was his idea to carry her out: “They wouldn’t let her strap strings to her and fly out, so I had to actually pick her up and carry her out.”