Skye Savren-McCormick received something very special in the mail this past March.
The 3-year-old opened an envelope to reveal a wedding invitation from a woman named Hayden Hatfield Ryals, containing an important request inside: Ryals had asked the toddler to be an official flower girl at her upcoming wedding.
The gesture was especially meaningful because the 25-year old Alabama bride-to-be and the child had never actually met each other.
With a life-saving bone marrow transplant in 2016, Ryals was able to help Skye fight a rare form of childhood leukemia. And on June 9th, the adorable 3-year-old was able to walk down the aisle and help her bone marrow donor get married.
Since the donation needed to stay anonymous for the first year, Ryals had only begun communicating with the Savren-McCormicks in 2017 through emails and letters. Skye wasn’t even medically cleared for travel until the month before the wedding, as she was still on oxygen and not physically well enough to take the trip.
That meant Skye and her new friend saw each other in person for the very first time a mere two days before Ryals said “I do.”
“The fantasy of flying to Alabama seemed so amazing, but very surreal,” Skye’s mom Talia Savren-McCormick tells Babble. “We didn’t think there was any way we’d possibly be able to go.”
However by April, Skye was no longer on her oxygen. Then by May, a doctor had given her parents the clearance to fly their daughter to the wedding.
“We texted Hayden that day and immediately started planning our trip,” the mom says. “I could not tell who was more excited, us or Hayden. We were finally going to be able to meet and squeeze the woman who saved our baby’s life.”
As you can imagine, the immediate connection between Skye and her new friend was more loving than anyone could have predicted.
“Talia asked her who I was, and she said ‘Hay Hay,'” Ryals tells Babble. “I could’ve cried an ocean of tears hearing those words in her sweet voice.”
As Skye was officially welcomed into the wedding party, her parents’ emotions also got the best of them.
“[Hayden] and Skye were immediately smitten for each other,” her mom says. “It was so beautiful to see what a close connection they were making. Everyone was teary-eyed.”
During the rehearsal dinner, the Savren-McCormicks surprised Ryals with a gift she will hold close to her heart forever. It was a gold locket filled with a photograph of the little girl, and the words next to the picture left the bride completely breathless.
“[It] read, ‘This heart beats with yours,’” Ryals tells Babble. “I couldn’t control my emotions and held them and cried. That was more thoughtful and amazing to me than I can ever explain.”
Skye was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia just before her first birthday. Her parents were told that a bone marrow transplant was her only hope of surviving. Ryals was attending Auburn University at the time and walking to class when she saw a table seeking out volunteers on campus. The organization was “Be the Match,” a national registry of volunteer blood marrow donors. Having donated her blood and platelets before, she decided to give some of her blood marrow to whoever may need it.
It just happened to be a perfect match for Skye.
“Almost a year to the day after I registered, I got a call saying I was a match to a 1-year-old baby girl with leukemia and [was] asked if I wanted to move forward with the process,” Ryals tells Babble. “I was in awe and instantly, I knew this was my purpose and was ready to get the ball rolling to help this angel.”
Yet even with the help of Ryals’ donation, Skye was still looking at a bleak 10 percent survival rate.
“When Skye was supposed to go into treatment, she kept getting sick,” Talia Savren-McCormick explains. “Her admission date kept getting pushed back. I was so fearful that this donor would say, ‘Forget it. I’m not donating anymore.’ Even though the date was changed multiple times, Hayden was still there and willing to help.”
Despite her discouraging diagnosis and ongoing medical challenges, the incredible kiddo miraculously pulled through and defied the odds. In the process, Hayden Hatfield Ryals has become one of her biggest fans.
“Skye is by far the most incredible 3-year-old I have ever met,” Ryals says. “She’s been through so much that she neither asked for nor deserved, and she has the best little attitude. I was overwhelmed with awe and joy that I knew this sweet precious soul and that she was physically here with me. I felt like the luckiest person on Earth.”
For Skye and her family, the feelings are definitely mutual.