Sometimes a dress can restore your faith in humanity.
When Kelly Cays' wedding gown was stolen March 14 - along with her 2006 Jeep Liberty - the bride-to-be was understandably forlorn. She had just picked up the dress from Danelle's Bridal Boutique, where it had been on order four months.
Cays didn't have renter's insurance and auto insurance wouldn't cover the loss. With the June nuptials drawing close, she and fiance Zach Rose didn't have the time nor the extra $1,800 to replace the garment, a gift from out-of-state relatives.
On March 24, 10 days after Cays' Jeep disappeared from the parking lot of her 8th Street apartment complex, the vehicle was found abandoned and empty off Constitution Avenue. That same day, a story about the couple's ordeal ran in The Gazette. Readers were quick to respond with condolences and generosity.
One bride-to-be offered Cays the use of her own dress before even she wore it down the aisle.
Another woman offered to give Cays the unworn Maggie Sottero gown she purchased in anticipation of a union that eventually ended short of the altar.
All told, Cays received more than a dozen offers from people who'd been touched by her story and who wanted to give or loan her a gown for the big day.
"So many people offered me their dresses and their stories," said Cays, who made a point of responding with a personalized thank you to each.
Her heart still was set on the original design, though, so she and Rose worked out a payment plan with the bridal shop and scratched together a deposit for a replacement dress that would arrive in time for the wedding.
"We had only put down a very small amount for them to order it for us," Cays said.
On March 29, in a "breath of angelic awesomeness," a woman who'd seen the Gazette story walked into Danelle's Bridal Boutique and paid the remaining balance - the bulk of the gown's total replacement cost, said bridal consultant Sarah Steinmeier.
"It had been a very busy day working on prom when this woman came in and wanted to know if anyone had paid for Kelly Cays' wedding dress yet. We said, 'No,' and she said, 'I'd like to do that,' and whipped out her checkbook. I couldn't believe it," Steinmeier said. "We all want to be able to do that someday, just make someone's day like that."
Steinmeier said that the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, had a very positive experience at the bridal store a few years ago and wanted to "pay it forward."
Cays broke down in tears when she got the call from staff at Danelle's. It was the first phone call in weeks that brought good news.
"After my car was stolen, I was thinking people are awful. Then throughout this so many people have helped me and been really sweet and tried to make things easier for me to deal with. There are so many amazing people out there," said Cays, who can only hope and trust that her nameless benefactor gets wind of her gratitude.
"The donor wanted to remain anonymous and I understand completely, but I would love to be able to say thank you. Thank you so much," she said.
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364