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Former swimmer wins dream wedding

Courtesy of Murphy O'Brien Public Relations

While almost every couple dreams of a wedding on the beach, one former Buckeye Meghan Kinney and her fiance John Avrett, will have their dreams come true.

Kinney and Avrett won a free military-style wedding, valued at $120,000, in the Salute to Love contest. The couple will be married on April 14, 2012, in Outer Banks, N.C.

The Salute to Love contest is put on by obxbrides.com, an online wedding resource, in association with Operation Homefront, a military agency that provides financial and other support to service members and their families, said Nannette Kallestad, co-owner of obxbrides.com.

Out of 210 couples across the U.S. and from nine finalists, Kinney and Avrett, who have been together 18 months, were formally announced as the winning couple Nov. 11.

“We were freaking out. Everyone was taking pictures and screaming ‘You won, you won,'” Kinney said. “It was such an out-of-body experience.”

More than 102,000 votes were cast for the finalist couples.

Kinney is a former synchronized swimmer for Ohio State. She was an alternate on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing, and was training as an alternate for the London 2012 Olympics when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, in her knee in October 2010.

Avrett, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, was with Kinney for her entire 100 day treatment at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the James Cancer Center at OSU. He entered the contest hoping to give Kinney the wedding of her dreams, despite the couple’s overwhelming medical expenses.

The couple heard the news that they’d won the contest three days before it was officially announced to voters, Kinney said.

Kinney and Avrett were on their way to dinner with a friend in Dayton, Ohio, when the friend suggested they go into a coffee shop, the same one in which Avrett proposed. Inside were some of the couple’s friends and representatives from obxbrides.com, the Sanderling Resort and Spa, who is hosting the wedding, and Operation Homefront, to name Kinney and Avrett the winners of the contest.

Kinney said the realization that they’d won came after a friend introduced them to his “friends from the Outer Banks.”

“There were like five random ladies sitting at the coffee shop. And then one of the ladies looked at John and said, ‘So John, what are you doing April 14?’ And then we thought wait, that’s the … no way,” Kinney said.

Representatives from the companies drove from Outer Banks at 3 a.m. that day to surprise the couple in a bus that said “Ohio or bust,” Kinney said.

The wedding is for 75 people, though with all the support Kinney and Avrett have received, they’re finding it difficult to narrow it down.

“That’s been the hardest part for sure,” Kinney said. “Obviously I would want to invite every single person who voted for us, because without them, we wouldn’t even have this opportunity.”

Kate Cline, a second-year in exercise science and member of the OSU rowing team, started a Facebook group to get students to vote for the couple in the contest. The group reached almost 60,000 people by the end of the contest. In an email, Cline said she was amazed at the impact the group made and wished the couple the best of luck.

“People were posting on the Facebook group wall that had no idea who the couple was, but had voted, shared the story with their friends and family and wished them the best of luck. That was so fantastic to see,” Cline said.

All services at the wedding will be donated by local Outer Banks companies. Flower companies, photographers and catering companies, among others have provided their services for Kinney and Avrett’s wedding.

Even Kinney’s dress is donated from Yes to the Dress, a local bridal shop in Outer Banks. Though she’d already bought a wedding dress, Kinney was told she still receives the dress from the boutique.

“That’s like every girl’s dream, you know,” Kinney said. “Who gets two dresses? Maybe Kim Kardashian.”

The Sanderling Resort and Spa will host events Friday, April 13, 2012, and Saturday, April 14, 2012, during the three-day wedding event. The resort normally hosts around 80 weddings a year, but like OBX Brides, this is the first wedding contest the Sanderling has been involved in, said Heidi Baldwin, a spokeswoman for the Sanderling.

The wedding reception will be held at the Sanderling’s Soundside Pavilion, and while the resort is available for the wedding venue as well, Kinney said she wants to have her wedding on the beach in front of the resort.

Though she is excited and anxious to start planning, Kinney said she’s not stressed, since she’ll have a lot of help planning the wedding.

Kallestad is overseeing the wedding planning for the entire weekend.

“There’ll be one wedding planner that’s handling a girls’ day out, and one handling the rehearsal dinner, but I will be coordinating the entire weekend,” Kallestad said. “I’m excited, I can’t wait to get started planning with them.

Kallestad will have the first planning meeting over the phone next week with Kinney and Avrett.

Currently, Kinney wants to keep the wedding simple, on the beach with a rustic theme.

“As of now, I have this pretty vision in my head, and I’m wanting it to become a reality,” Kinney said.

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