Family has a special wedding ceremony for their dying father

Oct 12, 2015 at 4:05 p.m. ET

In most wedding vows, "in sickness and in health" is listed as one of the pillars of a loving marriage. While you are asked to repeat it, it's difficult to understand the significance of such a promise in that moment.

However, it wasn't for the McHugh family, who held a very special wedding ceremony for their father, who is dying of neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. Ken McHugh was diagnosed back in 2010, but lately he's taken a turn for the worse, and his family fears he may not be with them much longer. He and his wife, Tammy, have four children who are now 18, 16, 14 and 13, and while he's coming to terms with dying, he cannot bear the idea of missing so many of their big moments in life, especially their weddings.

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“Over the years he’s begun to think of the milestones that he would sincerely miss and of course their weddings were a major thing that brought us much sadness when we thought about him not joining us,” Tammy told BuzzFeed. Ken did get to see his eldest daughter graduate from high school and his only son go off to his prom. He and his wife even celebrated their 20th anniversary back in June. However, in August, he received word from his oncologist that he's in the end stages and should go off chemo permanently. It seemed like the big life events he could look forward to were coming to an end — that is, until a local charity stepped in.

Team CMMD heard the McHughs' story and wanted to do something truly special for Ken and his family in the time he had left. They put together a giant family wedding so Ken could have the experience of walking his four children down the aisle. On Oct. 3, they gave Ken several wonderful family moments he never imagined he'd get to have.


Ken and Tammy also got to renew their vows in a moving part of the ceremony. While the day was filled with a lot of tears, Ken feels it will bring his family comfort when he is gone. He told CBS News, "I think when they look back, they'll go to that in times of need, in times of happiness. When they go to it, it will be to seek reassurance, the belief that I have of them."

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Ken gave each of his kids a sealed letter to open on the day they actually do get married, as well as a blue handkerchief so they could each have their something blue from him. I don't know about you, but I could definitely use one of those right about now.

Despite being so ill, Ken was able to walk all four of his children down the aisle without assistance. Tammy told BuzzFeed, "He just miraculously gathered the strength... but spent the next two days in bed." It just goes to show, love makes you remarkably strong, even in the darkest times.

However, the McHughs will be facing more dark days, even after their father passes. Ken hasn't been able to work for five years now because of his cancer, and the medical bills are piling up. He can't imagine leaving his family with the massive financial burden that will likely compromise his children's plans to attend college. Thus, he set up a GoFundMe page to try to offset the expenses somewhat and create a nest egg for their educational futures. So far they've raised $38,000 of their $250,000 goal in a little over two months.

Despite the fact that their story's gone viral, they still have a long way to go. If you feel for them or have been touched by a similar tragedy, consider helping Ken pave the way for his children's futures. While he may not get to see them graduate from college, he can at least rejoice in knowing they'll get to go.