Jenna Trosko & Patrick Higgins
March 18, 2017, in Philadelphia
Pat and Jenna met in May 2012, when both were volunteer counselors at Camp Erin Philadelphia -- a weekend-long bereavement camp for kids who have lost parents or siblings.
Because there weren't enough male Cabin Buddies, as Camp Erin calls its counselors, Jenna was assigned to a boys' cabin -- the same one as Pat. "We spent the whole weekend together -- from when the kids got there in the morning until bedtime, when I would leave," she said.
"She's the kindest person I've ever met, and I realized it that first weekend," Pat said. "All the kids loved her."
Jenna could relate to them -- she lost her dad, Thomas, to pancreatic cancer in 2007.
From the start, Pat cracked her up constantly. Not only is he funny, "he's the kind of person who would volunteer to spend a weekend at camp with 6-year-old kids."
Pat, who grew up near Boston, moved to this area to earn his business economics degree at Ursinus. He also holds a master's in health-care administration from St. Joe's. Now a director of business development at Penn Medicine, he was working in program development for Penn's Abramson Cancer Center when they met.
Jenna, who grew up in Harrisburg, moved to Philadelphia to earn her biology degree at Penn. Now a resident at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, she was in her first year of med school at Temple when they met but would be back at a Penn lab working over summer break.
When the weekend ended, Jenna and Pat agreed they should meet for coffee sometime. Their motivation to make that happen would have been greater if Jenna hadn't had a boyfriend.
They exchanged friendly emails and texts, though -- especially to discuss the new season of Arrested Development. Every quality she admired about Pat, and he about her, remained evident, and their friendship deepened even without spending time together.
Receiving her paperwork to volunteer for Camp Erin's 2013 season also prompted Jenna to email Pat, and on that go-round, one of them finally asked the other to have that cup of coffee. They met at the kiosk on the ground floor of the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.
Jenna no longer had a boyfriend.
"I knew it was a friends coffee thing, but I was pretty excited to see him again," she said. "I didn't know what he was thinking."
Pat was in a similar spot. "I was definitely excited for it, but not entirely sure what it was."
Coffee was fun, but their timing was still off. Pat realized he couldn't do camp that year because of a work trip. She lived near Rittenhouse, he lived in Conshohocken, and Jenna had begun a series of medical rotations that had her out of town for six weeks at a time. "We tried to make plans, but our schedules never quite worked," Jenna said.
Fast-forward to January 2014. They were still electronically in touch. Her rotations were over. He had moved to the city. Pat was done with the limbo. "We should go out to dinner," he said.
To Varga they went, and even after not seeing each other for so long, it wasn't at all awkward. In fact, each felt a little spark. Both wondered if they were still in, or out of, the friend zone.
The kiss at the end of Date Two cleared things up.
The couple, now both 30, knew they were committed about seven months in, when Jenna applied for residency programs. She hoped for a local match, but "where you're matched is where you have to go," she said. If her match was elsewhere, Pat told her, he would look for a job wherever it was. Jenna was humbled by the magnitude of his words. "His job at Penn is really, really good and he loves it," she said.
They have a video of her opening the envelope in March 2015, and bursting into happy tears to see "duPont."
Camp Erin, where they met, was developed by the Moyer Foundation and the Penn Wissahickon Hospice. In spring 2016, Pat emailed former Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer to ask a big favor.
On April 1 that year, Jenna and Pat walked to their favorite Fairmount eatery, Dasiwa Sushi. "We were walking to dinner, and he was playing on his phone. 'Get off your phone!' I said. 'I'm finally home from work, and you're on your phone!' "
Just then, Jenna's phone dinged. "Hey, Jenna," Jamie Moyer said in a video on her screen. "I think Pat has something to ask you."
Pat stopped walking, took her hand, and said something nice that neither of them remembers. "I kind of blacked out for a minute," he said. "I know I told her she's my best friend."
After "Yes," the conversation went like this:
"OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH! Does my mom know?"
"Does my sister know?"
Mom Mariella; sister Michelle; brother-in-law Jason; little brother Adam; Adam's girlfriend, Sarah; and Jenna's friend Molly were all waiting at the restaurant.
They called Pat's parents, Peggy and Geoffrey.
The couple wed in a Catholic ceremony at St. Francis Xavier in Fairmount, close to their apartment. Pat's dad is a deacon. He did much of the service and gave the homily, which made the ceremony especially meaningful.
The reception for 160 was at the Mutter Museum. The food was good, and this couple know that for sure. "Everyone told us we wouldn't eat, and I said, 'Oh, I promise we will!' "
Everyone danced the whole night.
Instead of favors, the couple made a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, in memory of Jenna's dad.
Jenna and Pat have continued to volunteer annually at Camp Erin and this year both have been promoted to Lead Cabin Buddy. (Camp Erin always needs volunteers and donations, they said.)
When the doors opened and Jenna walked into the ceremony space on her brother Brian's arm, every bit of nervousness Pat had been feeling evaporated. Her nerves were jumping, too, until at the top of the aisle, Pat took her arm and whispered, "You look amazing."
A bargain: Jenna got her dress at a sample sale for about half-price.
The splurge: "I knew I didn't have time for a do-it-yourself kind of wedding. We picked the venue that fit, and that took care of everything. We worked hard to keep the other costs down."
A week in Rome.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: The Rev. Brian Gaffney, St. Francis Xavier, Philadelphia, and Deacon Geoffrey Higgins, father of the groom.
Venues: Ceremony: St. Francis Xavier, Philadelphia.
Reception: Mutter Museum/College of Physicians, Philadelphia.
Food: Catering by Design, Philadelphia.
Music: Kim Alexander of No Macarena, Philadelphia.
Photography: Martin Reardon Photography, Jenkintown.
Videography: GBH Events, Parsippany, N.J.
Flowers: Beautiful Blooms, Philadelphia.