Eric and Hilary Munson had their wedding all planned -- a ceremony in Pattison Park this Saturday. But when Eric was diagnosed with stage four cancer, they improvised. The Superior couple exchanged brief vows weeks ahead of schedule just before Eric went into the hospital.
"Think 'The Princess Bride,' " his father, John Munson, said of the quick ceremony on May 26.
But Hilary's best friend, Kelsey McDonough, said she's never met a happier couple in her life.
"The way this couple copes with what is happening in their life really grants perspective," McDonough said. "They should be packing for their honeymoon and instead had to pack for Mayo Clinic, and they are still joking with each other, kissing and smiling through it all."
But friends aren't waiting until the couple comes home from Rochester, Minn., to show that they care. McDonough and Steve Baker are inviting the community to a spaghetti dinner and silent auction from 5-7 p.m. Friday at Barker's Island Inn. All proceeds will help the young couple with treatment costs. The event will include food, DJ music by Idol Entertainment, a T-shirt sale and the auction. Tickets will not be sold but donations will be accepted at the door.
"Eric is such an exceptional guy, he really hasn't let his diagnosis get him down," McDonough said, adding that the couple support each other constantly. "Coping with this ordeal is a testament to the strength they have together."
The nonlocalized cancer has attacked Eric's liver, lungs and colon. According to his CaringBridge website, Eric recently underwent a surgical procedure to help his liver begin to function normally again.
"That will set the stage for the start of the real battle against cancer," John Munson wrote on the site. He said that once chemotherapy is started, doctors are hopeful that Eric can return to Superior and only make occasional trips back to Rochester.
"His support system would be 250 miles closer," John Munson said.
That system is hard at work on Friday's fundraiser.
"The support has been overwhelmingly generous from the community," McDonough said.
In less than two weeks, they secured a venue, food donations, volunteers, and items to auction and raffle. Prizes include a skydive jump from Skydive Superior, a couple's season pass at Poplar Golf Course, a Cannondale bike from Continental Ski and Bike, a remote car starter from DADS Electronics, a luxury spa package from Trends Salon & Spa and a Hilton Rewards trip. McDonough also thanked Charlie Johnson at Barker's Island Inn for offering the ballroom as a venue.
Eric, 31, graduated from Superior High School in 1998. He played on the school's varsity football team and coached hockey for the Superior Amateur Hockey Association for five years. He was employed at Menards in Superior; Hilary works for St. Luke's.
"Eric will give and help out with whatever you need," said Baker, who has known the family for 16 years. "He is a man of great integrity and loyalty. He has always been available to talk to and really cares about what you are going through. He is strong and ready to fight against this horrible cancer."
John Munson said he plans to use Skype or a live video feed to let the newlyweds be part of the event.
"I'm just extremely grateful and so are Eric and Hilary," Munson said. "We're very grateful for the compassion of the community and all their help."