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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘We just want to make their dreams come true’: Young couple weds at Spokane venue after Oregon Road fire destroyed grandparents’ home

Garrett and Auti Jackson planned to marry at their family’s Elk property, but last month’s Oregon Road fire destroyed the home and wedding decorations, leaving the young couple scrambling to find a new venue and adornments in less than a month.

Thanks to the Corbin Senior Activity Center, the West Valley High School sweethearts delivered their vows in front of family and friends Saturday inside the Spokane nonprofit.

“I’m very, very happy,” Garrett said Saturday before the ceremony. “It’s kind of a miracle we were able to get this place.”

The nearly 11,000-acre fire, which started Aug. 18 and burned 384 structures, leveled the home and property belonging to couple Jerry Woods and Debra Dykes, who is Auti’s grandmother.

Woods said he has lived in the home 30 years, and the property, where Auti’s sister got married a couple years ago, has been in his family for about 80 years.

The wildfire also consumed Auti’s wedding dress and all the decorations – including lights, dishes, centerpieces and flowers – they were storing at the property.

Dykes said over 100 wooden mushroom decorations she painted for the wedding were lost in the fire.

“It was not only bad that the house burned,” Dykes said. “I felt bad because I had nothing for the wedding and these people (at the activity center) are so wonderful to step forward and take over.”

Amid the grief of watching loved ones lose everything they had, Garrett, 23, and Auti, 21, essentially had to start from scratch.

They had to decide if they wanted to keep their Sept. 16 wedding date, and if so, determine where the ceremony would be and how they would pull it all together.

Claudia Ouwerkerk, executive director at Corbin, said she contacted Jen Taylor, former board president at the center and Dykes’ daughter, and offered to host the couple’s wedding for free at Corbin, 827 W. Cleveland Ave.

“Please let Corbin just wrap our arms around (Auti) and give her a space because we want to be able to help,” Ouwerkerk said she told Taylor.

The Spokane Valley couple agreed, expressing great thanks for the opportunity.

“Garrett and I, we were so ready, honestly, to give up and just go get eloped, but we had so many people just rush in to save the day for us,” Auti said. “It was amazing. We still are just kind of shocked by it.”

Ouwerkerk, a member of Spokane Weddings and Events, said she pleaded with the organization to provide flowers for the wedding. She said Erika Colbert of Your Day Decor decorated all day Friday and made bouquets.

Ouwerkerk said she asked Daniel McLay, also known as DJ Dan, two days before the wedding if he could provide his services, and he quickly agreed.

“She starts explaining to me and I said, ‘Stop, I’m in. There’s no way I could not do this. This is giving back. I love young people,’ ” McLay said.

The couple noted the amazing support they received from their family, friends, community and Corbin staff.

“Everybody’s been so kind and so helpful,” Auti said. “I never expected such overwhelming support.”

Jeromy Jackson, Garrett’s father, said the wedding came together perfectly.

“It’s just one of those things,” Jeromy said. “You want the best for your son and you want their wedding to be magical and the best you could ever have.”

Ouwerkerk said she and Corbin staff wanted to make something special for the couple and the grandparents since they were devastated by the fire.

“We just want to make their dreams come true for them as much as we can,” Ouwerkerk said of the couple.

Keeping the same date, Auti walked down the aisle in the ballroom and up to the stage where Garrett, dressed in a black tuxedo, waited for her. The two held hands, looked each other in the eyes, read their vows and kissed.