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Bride gets man with father’s heart to walk her down the aisle

Posted at 10:36 AM, Aug 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-08 10:36:01-04

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.

So while the man who escorted Jeni down the church aisle was not her dad, Arthur Thomas has a deep connection to the man he never met. Michael Stepien was an organ donor and Arthur Thomas has his heart.

Jeni, who had been in contact with Arthur over the years,  met him for the first time  the night before her wedding. It was then that Jeni 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," she said upon meeting the man with her father's heart. "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."

"Just hugging him made me feel like I was close to my dad again which on this day was perfect," Jeni's sister Michelle Stepien said. "It was what I needed."

Arthur Thomas said Jeni was the first person he had ever walked down the aisle.

"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," Jeni said.