It was the moment of a lifetime for an Alabama bride when the 3-year-old whose life she saved walked down the aisle as her flower girl.
Hayden Hatfield Ryals, 26, said she signed up for Be the Match, a bone marrow donation registry, in 2015, but it wasn’t until the weekend of her June 9 wedding that she met Skye Savren-McCormick, the little girl who received her bone marrow, and Skye’s mom, Talia.
"Talia asked [Skye] who I was and so sweetly and gently, she said, 'Hay Hay,'" Ryals said. "Nothing will ever match what it was like to experience hearing her say that."
Ryals said when she first thought of who would be her flower girl, no one else came to mind but Skye.
Skye was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia just before her first birthday and had her first bone marrow transplant that same year. In 2017, she needed another transplant, her final one, and that bone marrow came from Ryals.
Skye beat the cancer and a few months after the transplant, her parents received a letter from Ryals. They kept in touch, and for Skye’s third birthday, Ryals sent her a gift with an important question inside: Would Skye be her flower girl?
Ryals knew that Skye lived in California so it might be a long shot, but she wanted to ask anyway.
"I wanted them to know they were most wanted there," Ryals said. "I asked Skye to be my flower girl because she's the only little girl who could ever fill that role for me. If it wasn't her, we simply would not have had a flower girl."
Skye’s family accepted and Ryals said it was a magical moment to see the toddler walk toward her on her big day. The moments were captured by photographer Joshua Bane.
"I've often wondered how the father of the bride or groom feels when they see the bride for the very first time," Ryals said. "I believe I experienced what they feel when I saw Skye walk down the aisle. Time stopped and my world was perfect."
Ryals added, "She was the most precious and flawless soul I had ever laid eyes on."
The families know the meeting won’t be their last and they plan on being a part of each other’s lives forever.