Thomas and Shauna Pengelley's 9-week-old daughter Angela had just stopped breathing and was being rushed away from their hospital room toward the neonatal intensive care unit in the arms of a nurse. In a waiting room, they anxiously awaited any word of their daughter's status. When the results came back and they learned of Angela's congenital heart disease, they were overcome with feelings of immense shock, denial, grief and even anger.
Fortunately, Angela survived the painstakingly long and difficult surgery to repair her little heart.
Every year in the 15 years since, they have celebrated the anniversary of that surgery that ultimately saved their daughter's life. When the family moved to Dickinson six years ago knowing no one, they reached out to a local florist for a bouquet to honor their "heart warrior."
"Six years ago, new to the community, I reached out to Gaffaney's Floral and explained that we celebrate the anniversary of my daughter's heart surgery," Shauna Pengelley said. "They had just sold all their Valentine's Day merchandise but still came up with a heart balloon and a beautiful arrangement."
The Pengelleys were thrilled on that day six years ago, but what happened over the next half decade went "above and beyond" what they ever expected.
"Every year since, they have been so gracious and became a part of this celebration, coming up with something unique and special for her on this day free of charge," Shauna Pengelley said. "This year, I am a new mom again, and having serious mom-brain, I forgot to do something special for Angela. Gaffaney's didn't."
When the Pengelley's doorbell rang, they were surprised to see an arrangement for Angela waiting for them.
"I am so grateful to have them celebrate all our family's milestones," Shauna Pengelley said through tears. "They are a wonderful asset to our community and genuinely love being involved in all the little and big things we all celebrate."
For Jason and Julie Degele, celebrating this moment with the family-albeit from a distance and with their flowers-has been a natural part of being involved in their community.
"It's not about the bottom dollar to us. Running a business is about being a member of the community and as parents, it's about understanding how fortunate we are," Jason Degele said. "When that first call came in over six years ago, we wrote down the date in our calendar and have made sure that Angela has something special every year."
This act of humility, altruism and community was done in earnest, as never once has the florist used their annual donations of bouquets as a promotional tool for the company.
"It's not about saying, 'Look what we're doing,' it's being a part of a community and when you choose us, we choose you," Julie Degele said. "We really have a great job. We get to see life in its entirety. We help out in birthdays, anniversaries, proms, weddings, cheer banquets and we help people through the tough time when loved-ones pass."
The amazing element of this years-long friendship between the Degeles and Pengelleys is that until Tuesday night, they had never met in person.
As Angela detailed her life since the surgery and spoke of her love for cheerleading with the Press, something special happened-a knock at the door.
For the first time, the Pengelleys and Degeles were face-to-face and, within seconds, cheek-to-cheek in an embrace years in the making. As the evening unfolded, the families shared laughter and the occasional story told through tears. Both agreed it was a special heart-to-heart.