Bride given away by man who received her father’s heart

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PITTSBURGH — When a Pennsylvania bride walked down the aisle during her weekend wedding, it was not her father who gave her away to the groom.

Jeni Stepien’s father Michael was killed in 2006.

On the eve of Stepien’s wedding day, she met for the first time the man who’s now living with her father’s heart. A meeting filled with emotion for Stepien and the entire family.

Stepien’s father, Michael Stepien, was murdered in 2006. His organs were donated, including the heart Arthur Thomas had been waiting 16 years for. On Friday, Stepien felt her father’s heart beat for the first time in 10 years.

“I am so excited. It’s like the whole family’s here now. It’s like everybody’s here,” Stepian said.

Thomas and his wife traveled to Pittsburgh from New Jersey to be there for Stepien’s big day. Everyone gathered at St. Anselm Church in Swissvale where the ceremony took place.

“We’ve been talking to him and writing letters and calling and receiving flowers and sending gifts for the past 10 years and now it’s finally here,” Stepian said.

“Just hugging him made me feel like I was close to my dad again which on this day was perfect. It was what I needed,” said sister of the bride, Michelle Stepien.

But there’s even more to this special meeting.

“Jeni wrote me a letter. And she said, ‘Tom, I’m the daughter of the man whose heart’s inside you, and I’m gonna get married on August 6th. One further thing if you’re willing, would you walk me down the aisle?'” Thomas said.

So Thomas got the OK from his daughter, and the rest is history.

“First person I’ll ever be walking down the aisle.” Thomas said.

“It’s just like having my dad here and just better because we get to share this story with other people and you know other people see that organ donors do matter,” Stepien said.