High Stakes Competition for Local Couple

-A A +A

Dream wedding > Contest raises funds for children’s hospital

By Tris DeRoma

If by any chance you’re out and about at the Farmer’s Market or happen upon a young, adorable-looking couple sitting at a table outside Starbucks or Ruby K’s over the next few weeks, by all means, go up and say “hi.”

By doing so, you could impact a lot of lives for the better.

You see, Chris Rondeau and Jeanette Trujillo have entered a contest. Not just any contest mind you, but a contest that if won, will give the newly-engaged couple the wedding of their dreams, as well as a honeymoon they will likely remember for the rest of their lives.

And while that alone is spectacular, the best part is that the money they raise through their participation in the contest, goes to the University of New Mexico’s Children’s Hospital.

It all started a few months ago when the two were persuaded by one of Trujillo’s friends to enter the “$50,000 New Mexico Dream Wedding Giveaway,” an annual contest and charity run by Susan Caplan, the event’s executive producer.

Engaged couples that meet the qualifications can sign up to be in the contest between January and February. The top prize is a wedding that’s supplied and serviced by about 20 sponsors, who supply everything from the wedding rings to the stationery for the bride’s big day.

But first, the couple has to win — and it’s not easy. According to Caplan, about 100 couples entered this year. In February, a random drawing was held in Albuquerque, where that number is randomly whittled down to 15, and that’s where Trujillo and Rondeau come in.

“That was tricky,” said Rondeau, who talked about how they then had to visit the participating businesses and be interviewed.

“We had to tell them who we were, what we do, how we met each other and how we became engaged,” he said. When that phase of the contest was done, the businesses voted on their top five favorite couples, and Rondeau and Trujillo found themselves where they are now — one of the top five finalists competing for the grand prize. And not only that, Rondeau said, but they are the only couple from Los Alamos to enter and get this far in the five-year history of the contest.

“So we are excited about that,” he said. “We started fundraising (Thursday), the first day we were allowed to do so.”

Like a true couple, Trujillo and Rondeau have a strategy. While Rondeau mainly asks for support and donations from the general public, they’ve also drafted a proposal letter that they’ve been taking around to local businesses ,telling them who they are and what they’re doing in an effort to solicit even more donations for the hospital. They are also selling raffle tickets for $10.

The drawing will be April 9 in Albuquerque, the same day the winning couple is announced.

Raffle ticket buyers don’t have to be present to win Rondeau said, and the prizes include a stay at a bed and breakfast and a diamond pendant, among other prizes.

Starting March 25, the public can also vote for the couple online at nmdreamwedding.com.

“As soon as people are able to vote, we are going to take our laptops out with us and people will be able to vote right there at the table, too,” Rondeau said.

So far, Los Alamos has been stepping up.

“We tell them that we live and work up here and they are very excited for us,” Rondeau said. Trujillo added that local residents also really like the fact that the money they donate goes to a good cause.

“They know it all goes toward UNM Children’s Hospital and they know what that’s all about,” she said.

Earlier this week, they were taken on a tour of the hospital.

“It was pretty cool,” said Rondeau, who is a firefighter and paramedic with the Los Alamos Fire Department. “They theme different areas of the hospital, so one has a pirate theme; the other a balloon fiesta theme; they really try to make the kids as comfortable as they can. It was great to see what we’re really working for, and what the real goal is. It’s really about helping out the kids.”

Caplan said each couple will be judged in four categories:
• They have to sell all 200 of their raffle tickets
• How much money they raised from their own campaigning and online donations.
• How many online votes they get
• Campaign etiquette.

“We want to make sure the couples are following all the rules,” said Caplan, who started the contest in 2008.

And sure, there’s a lot the couple has to do, but in the end, at least for one couple, it will all be worth it.

“The couple will get a wedding for 100 guests, with every single thing they could possibly need for an amazing wedding as well as a seven-day honeymoon,” she said. “This year, the couple will get to stay at the Secrets Resort in Maroma Beach, Cancun, Mexico.”

No matter what couple takes home the prize though, it’s the hospital that “wins” every year, Caplan said.
“The whole contest is centered on this charity component,” she said. “So far we’ve donated over $56,000 to UNM Children’s Hospital.”

For more information and to learn more about Rondeau and Trujillo, log onto nmdreamwedding.com.