GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- When 3TV anchor Tess Rafols approached three women at a Gilbert Fry’s Food Store, they were happy to answer her questions about moms for an upcoming Mother’s Day story.
But one of the moms has been busy raising three kids, going to nursing school, and trying to plan a wedding at the same time, all while sticking to a tight budget.
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She had no idea Rafols was really setting her up for an amazing day, courtesy of Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad.
“What does it mean to be a mom?” asked Rafols.
“My daughter means everything to me,” said Joyce, alongside her own mother and her daughter. “She was a straight-A student, was in the Marines. She’s going to nursing school."
“What’s the best thing Mom’s done for you?” Rafols asked turning to Joyce’s daughter Ashley.
“Um, just support me,” said Ashley. “Everything that I want to do, she’s always there.”
“And you guys even do your grocery shopping together?” said Rafols. “Is that why you guys are here?”
“Actually, we’re on our way to look at a wedding venue. I’m getting married,” said Ashley.
“You’re getting married?” said Rafols. “Congratulations!”
“Thank you,” said Ashley.
“When’s the big day?” said Rafols.
“Feb. 20, 2020,” said Ashley. “So, we’re going to look at a venue out here.”
“Guess what?” said Rafols. “We’re lying today.”
“Lying about what?” said Ashley.
“We’re not out here asking you about moms,” said Rafols. She handed Ashley a white rose wedding bouquet. “We’re here to surprise you. I’m with Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad!”
“Mom!” said Ashley, while applause and shouting erupted from her onlooking family.
“Turn that around and see what that’s about,” said Rafols about the small Surprise Squad card sticking out from the top of the flowers.
“Are you serious?” asked Ashley fighting back tears.
“What does it say?” said Rafols.
“Your dream wedding venue,” said Ashley.
“We have a place to take you that is everything you’ve wanted according to your mom,” said Rafols, as Ashley hugged her mother. “She wrote to Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad.”
Ashley hugged Tess.
“Well, let’s go check this place out!” said Rafols.
The family followed Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad to Queen Creek. Tess greeted them when they got out of their car.
“Have you ever been to Schnepf Farms?” asked Rafols.
“This is one of the venues we were looking at,” said Ashley with fiancé Darian by her side.
“Should we go check it out?” said Rafols.
“Yeah!” said Ashley.
"Alright, let’s go!” said Rafols.
The family entered the main house and there were hugs all around.
“We’re excited that you’re going to be joining us for your wedding,” said Carrie Schnepf, surrounded by Schnepf Farm’s wedding staff.
Ashley and Darian shared their love story, sitting just a few feet from where they will exchange their vows.
“We’ve been together about 10 years,” said Ashley. “We have three children: 2, 6 and 8.”
“I’ve been in nursing school for almost four years. I graduate this year,” said Ashley. “Before that, I was in the Marine Corps. It was actually in the Marine Corps that I realized that I would rather help people and so nursing was my calling. It’s challenging. The schedules, the long homework nights and Darian’s just been supportive through that whole process. He’s been my rock!”
“Our kids are really good, too,” said Darian.
“Yeah, we have good kids,” said Ashley. “We did some things backwards a little bit. So, we had all our children and my weddings been something that I wanted to do but I felt like it wasn’t the right time.”
“We were just two souls meant to be,” said Darian. “We were best friends right off the bat and haven’t stopped being best friends since then.”
“What does Ashley mean to you?” asked Rafols.
“Everything. Absolutely everything,” said Darian. “I mean, I couldn’t ever think of not having her.”
Schnepf Farms wedding coordinators, Bri and McCall took the group on a grand tour of the wedding venue’s many offerings.
First, they toured a grand ballroom with a romantic fireplace and were told all the ways the room could be used. They saw the bridal décor room, with all the items at their disposal. Darian saw the groom’s room with its rich, leather furnishings and Ashley saw the romantic bride’s room with a French door that she would be exiting from to walk down the aisle.
While being shown the various verandas and gazebo for dining and dancing, Schnepf Farms had more surprises for the couple.
“We also have a DJ that’s (sic) going to do all of your music,” Schnepf said. “He’s with East Coast DJs and he’s awesome! We’re offering you catering for it as well. We’re probably going to do a nice barbecue for you and just make it a lot of fun.”
The crowd gasped, and Ashley was left speechless.
“We love giving back to the community that has done so much for us,” Schnepf said.
Susan Johnson from the Cottage at Queen Creek stepped forward and gave Ashley a colorful bouquet of spring flowers.
“We are going to donate your bridal bouquet, groom’s boutonniere, flowers for your arch and we’ll also donate decorations for your tables,” Johnson said.
“Oh, that is so amazing!” said Ashley.
“Thank you so much,” said Darian.
The crowd moved on to the area where they will exchange vows.
“So, the orchard you see behind you is one of our peach orchards,” said McCall. “In February, when you have your day, it’s going to have pink blossoms.”
“Oh, my goodness,” said Ashley.
“So, it’s going to be a really pretty space for you guys,” said McCall.
“Oh, my gosh. It’s beautiful,” said Ashley.
“It’s breathtaking,” said Darian.
“It’s perfect,” said Ashley.
“And then to have the pink flowers, it’s a dream come true,” said Darian.
“Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad and the Valley Toyota Dealers are very excited to be able to secure the venue and to be able to take care of the venue for you but the Schnepf Family came through with so many of their connections as well,” said Rafols.
“Seeing the outside, seeing the mountains, just everything about this place is what I’ve been telling her is what I’ve always wanted as well,” said Darian.
“This really put something inside me that maybe, someday, I’ll be able to do something for somebody else,” said Ashley. “Thank you so much. We’re just so grateful.”
Thanks to Fry’s Food Stores, The Cottage at Queen Creek, East Coast DJs and Schnepf Farms for helping with this surprise.
Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad is sponsored by your Valley Toyota Dealers.