In South Tampa, Florida, one police officer listened to his instinct. Something beyond him guided him through the woods. And when he came upon an unusual scene, he knew immediately that there was something greater at work here.
While the situation he stumbled upon was not new to him, he could never have prepared for what he was about to discover. It happened in the wooded area off Manhattan Avenue – where people are not supposed to be.
Tampa Police Homeless Liaison Officer Daniel McDonald saw something through the trees. He parked and drew his flashlight to investigate. Just beyond the stretch of trees, he saw a tent and a makeshift camp. It belonged to a couple named Evelyn and Rocky and they had been devoted to each other for twenty-two years. But they didn’t belong in the woods…
Officer McDonald knew he needed to act…
But as he talked with Rocky and Evelyn, Officer McDonald learned about their tragic story. For the last three years, they had been homeless, having lost everything. But the day they lost their child was a day that changed their life forever. Because after that, they were thrust into a spiraling depression that they could not yank themselves out of. As the pieces of their life began to fall apart, they lost their home and went to live in the woods.
The loss of that child was not even the first for Evelyn. A few years before, her other child died in a car crash. As they had vowed to each other when they first got together, Rocky and Evelyn remained together throughout the ups and downs. But recently, life had just been a series of downs.
Instead of locking them up for trespassing or another minor violation, Officer McDonald decided to talk to them, to see why they were living in the woods behind Manhattan Avenue.
He learned that although they had committed their lives to each other – 22-years ag0 – they had never had enough money to officially get married. At that moment, the generous officer knew he couldn’t let them suffering the woods alone. He wanted to help them get a fresh start and he would begin by paying for the $93 marriage license.
But Officer McDonald knew he couldn’t turn these down-on-their-luck couple’s life around alone. He sent out a call to local business owners and residents. Quickly he raised about $20,000 to help Evelyn and Rocky.
They used that money to give the couple a wedding like they had always dreamed of. And during the ceremony, the homeless couple was left in tears.
“This is a dream come true and everybody that has done all this… it has just been a dream come true. It is awesome that all these people come together for these two homeless old people.”
They had always dreamed of owning a home. And because of Officer McDonald’s support, they were able to get started on the path to that dream.
“We look forward to a new life, to start over, that’s about all I can say, it is going to be a start over,” Rocky told WFLA-TV.
In the video below, you can watch the homeless couple get married and get started on their way to living their dream.