And the winners are...

CHASE AND KARINA!

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We have so many feelings about this couple, but we will let their words tell the story. Here is their entry:

Our story

Chase and I have been dating for 7.5 years and are counting down the days until summer of 2019 when we get married at last. Our love story began when we met in Champaign. I was in my second year at U of I and Chase had recently graduated from there. We met through mutual friends and knew who each other were but that was the extent of our relationship. Our first real 1:1 interaction occurred on the corner of Busey and University in Urbana just outside of Carle Hospital. It was a dark cold winter night and after volunteering at the Hospital I had been waiting on the corner for a safe ride to pick me up. Chase was driving back to campus after training at a volunteer fire department in Urbana when our paths crossed. Chase spotted me bundled up in my bright red coat and nearly did a U-turn. He asked if I wanted a ride, and I couldn’t resist.  I jumped in his cozy car and we talked the entire drive and then some more after. This is where the first spark ignited. From then on we realized we had so much in common and just as much not in common. Months later, Chase asked me out on a date and we’ve been together since.

Chase came from a small town of <1,000 residents and I came from the second largest city in Illinois. He had the most adorable loving tiny family with the biggest hearts beaming with lots of quirky/fun traditions. I had a large traditional family that can be described as “very Mexican” and a bit slow to warm up. My entire family drank coffee at least three times a day and Chase’s family didn’t have a coffee pot in sight. Chase’s family was filled with musicians; his parents had a duo and would perform around the Peoria area when they first started dating. My family may have a genetic predisposition to becoming tone-deaf, although this has not been confirmed. Despite our differences, I think what truly united us was our love for both of our families, a united vision to build our own, take the best, and pass it on to others.

Throughout these seven years, we have endured many difficult and trying experiences.  For one, we have only lived within an hour or in the same town for 3 out of the 7 years. Chase was a wildland firefighter for the US Forest Service and spent several months or “seasons” on the West Coast (California/Oregon) fighting fires. Prior to meeting Chase, he had worked two seasons during his summer breaks at school and wanted to continue to explore that fiery career.  I had my mind set on graduate school. One thing that was clear was that we both fully supported each other’s dreams and careers, and we were willing to make all the sacrifices that were necessary. So Chase went back to the West Coast 6 months out of the year to continue being a Wildland firefighter. I finished undergrad and then pursued a rigorous graduate degree in school psychology. Not only were we unable to see each other, but also in many ways, communication itself was nearly impossible given his 15+ hour seven days-a-week work days as well as very spotty cell phone reception in the most remote places. I was also completely consumed with my responsibilities in graduate school.  One of my favorite memories was on my 21st birthday, when Chase was able to get permission to come and see me. After work, he drove 5 hours to San Francisco, took a plane ride to O’Hare, surprised me, spent the weekend with me before returning back to California and driving another 5 hours to be at work the next day. That’s just the type of guy that he is.

After several fire seasons, Chase came back home to Central Illinois to spend time with his family after his father's health had greatly deteriorated due to leukemia. Within these 7 years we have attended more funerals of the closest of our family members than we ever could have imagined.  At times, it has felt like our tight knit family was fading away.

Throughout these seven years we have also shared several exciting milestones such as grad school acceptances, three graduations, family expansions, several new jobs, fun mini-trips, and most excitingly the day/weekend we got engaged!  Chase is now a coffee drinker, becoming more fluent in Spanish, heating up tortillas the right way, and an integral member of my family. I’ve become a better dancer, more faith-filled, a bit more physically fit (to keep up with him), and much more adventurous. 

Chase recently got hired as a full time firefighter and I am living in Urbana working for the school district. We’ve been searching for the right careers, in the right place, at the right time. These experiences have made us stronger and more appreciative of one another.  We are still inspired by the many families that make sacrifices while working for the Forest Service, the military, or even just couples that have endured so much pain but always manage to push forward. We also always make time for each other and each other’s family because we know how precious time is and how important family is.

So why us?

I would never say that we are the best couple, most worthy, or more deserving of this amazing opportunity. I’ve been inspired by so many other love stories and can only hope that someday our love could be one to inspire others. We are both easy going, nature-loving, slightly introverted, old souls that are just trying to find our own way in this chaotic world and help make it a bit better. What I can do is promise you that if you were to pick us, we would be eternally grateful and would proudly showcase your talent and generosity on our big day. We are just now, entering our careers and embarking on this journey. Things have been falling right into place, just as we had hoped and prayed that they would.

About the wedding

We decided to get married at a church in Champaign-Urbana. We found it so meaningful to come back to the place where it all began. We hope to use lots of green infused with neutrals and some "pops" of color to tie in a subtle Mexican/fiesta type of theme. We are going to have a food truck for appetizers of tacos, piñatas, and most of all hope to make it as much of a representation of the both of us. Chase uses idioms a lot when he talks and is constantly having to break them down for me so we’re hoping to sneak in some “sayings” through our decorations. We have been planning this wedding hand in hand together. It’s a bit daunting given our modest budget and the fact that we are “new” to Champaign-Urbana (as non-students) with no family connections here. However, we have been saving up for this day. It’s been in the works for a long time now and it feels so right. Thank you for reading a snapshot of our story. I am grateful to be able to share it.