2017-10-25 / News

Catskill Region wedding venues deliver for Texas couple

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By Jill Ribich

When Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast in August, Shellie Schoellkopf and her fiancé, Robert Callaway, were planning their wedding. They had postponed the wedding twice already over the past few years and were anxious to start their life together as man and wife. But when they looked over the guest list they realized the storm was affecting most of the people they had invited. The Texas couple decided that rather than having a reception, they would donate the $5,000 they might spend to victims of Hurricane Harvey. “We realize we’re blessed in many ways, and we wanted to give back to people,” Schoellkoft continued. “We’re really more focused on the marriage than on the wedding. What better way to start off on the right foot than this?”

Change of plans

The couple cancelled their gift registry and the reception venue and set up a Venmo account to collect donations for Harvey relief. They invited now homeless relatives to stay with them and picked up hammers and shovels to lend a hand in reconstruction the homes and lives of others.

“Our friend and wedding photographer in Houston, Bryan Anderson had the idea of taking pictures of us right after Hurricane Harvey in our wedding attire standing amidst the rubble of our old neighborhood. Harvey was now a very real part of our lives and our wedding so we decided to embrace it. He never told us that his own home had been heavily damaged. Those pictures went viral and that is how our story became public,” said Shellie who married Callaway with just close friends and family in attendance on October 7.

Cat Greenleaf, television host of “Talk Stoop” and her husband Michael Rey read the story in the London Daily Mail and were moved by the selflessness of Schoellkropf and Callaway.

“It was such a bright spot amidst all of the disastrous news that week, of both the natural and human types. What moved us most was that Shellie and Rob weren’t making a grand gesture or looking for a bunch of praise. They simply looked around and did some quick math. Hurricane Harvey robbed their friends and neighbors of homes, belongings, livelihoods. While the cost of that damage is inestimable, this young couple realized that the money they’d saved up for a wedding reception and honeymoon would go much farther by helping rebuild the lives’ of others than it would celebrating one night for themselves” said Greenleaf.

She reached out to the couple by phone and the planning was underway to provide them with a honeymoon they would never forget. Greenleaf cashed in frequent flyer miles to bring the couple to New York City for a few days where event planner Jove Meyer organized a whirlwind of activities for them including a room at the Double Tree Hotel in Times Square, personalized tattoos, customized perfumes, meals and sightseeing. Then the couple was off to the Catskills in a car rented by Rey, who is also an investigative producer for 60 Minutes.

The Roxbury Connection

Greenleaf and Ray own Roxbury’s The Catskill Mountain House, but Greenleaf, who was busy filming her show, relied on the help of friends in the Catskills to take over the honeymoon plans. The first stop on October 11 was at The Emerson Resort and Spa in Mt. Tremper where they were given an overnight stay in an Imperial Suite, and VIP spa treatments including a Himalayan Salt Soak followed by massages in the Spa’s Couples Room including champagne and an artisanal cheese platter. That evening they were treated to dinner at the Woodnotes Grille.

On the road again

The next morning they continued their drive toward Roxbury enjoying the bright fall colors of the Catskills. Upon arrival at The Catskill Mountain House in Roxbury, they were met by NYC photographer Mekina Saylor and crew who provided the couple with a daylong wedding photography session in three outfits, including their wedding attire.

Mary Todd of Mary’s Cookin’ Again served a romantic dinner for the couple that evening. The menu included ginger-honey grilled shrimp, lobster, marinated steak, and all the trimmings.

“Being from Texas,” said Todd, “I figured they had never tasted fresh Maine Lobster and I wanted this meal to be special for them.”

This reporter was asked to help plan the Callaway’s honeymoon and rounded up other service providers, with everyone asked agreeing to help. Doug McLaurie and Robin Factor, owners of the Roxbury General Store donated customized hats, tee shirts, coffee roasted in the Catskills and two bicycle rentals with helmets and trail maps. Roxbury Wine and Spirits gave the couple two bottles of New York wine. Cassie’s Café hosted the couple for breakfast and The Public Lounge served them a gourmet dinner.

More helping hands

In Margaretville Sue Ihlo, owner of the Cheese Barrel presented the Callaways with a gift bag filled with treats and goodies from the Catskills. Brian Mulder and Todd Pascarella, owners of Union Grove Distillery in Arkville gave them a bottle of Catskill brewed Vly Creek Vodka along with a tour of the distillery. Inez and Andy at Table on Ten in Bloomville welcomed the couple with a $50 gift certificate as did the Phoenicia Diner.

Roxbury and the Catskills rolled out the red (and orange and yellow) carpet for the couple from Houston. “We don’t have changes of seasons like this in Houston and it is truly glorious,” said Robert Callaway. “

We are blown away by the beauty and the hospitality of the Catskills and can’t wait to return. We just can’t thank everyone enough for all that they did for us. We never expected anything; we just did what we needed to do to help in the face of all that destruction in Houston.”

Cat Greenleaf and Michael Ray were finally able to drive up from the city on Saturday to meet the Callaways.

“We finally got to meet the happy couple on their last night at our place. They were kind enough to let our crazy circus family of two adults, two rowdy boys, two Great Danes and one tiny mutt crash their party. Our evening together was made ever more magical because it was our wedding anniversary as well,” added Greenleaf.

“These newlyweds have just the spirit we love at The Catskill Mountain House, where the emphasis is on the type of marriage you want to have and the life you want to build, beyond just the trappings of a gorgeous wedding day,” she added.

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