GREENPORT, NY — After serving tirelessly during the pandemic, two medical professionals had the wedding of their dreams recently after winning New York Tent’s Healthcare Hero Wedding Giveaway.
Shaka Ballantyne, originally from Trinidad and a graduate of Riverhead High School, and Shannon Nigg, who graduated from Westhampton Beach High School, were married at Brecknock Hall Saturday at a wedding hosted by Peconic Landing in Greenport, a release said.
The giveaway was meant to honor “a deserving couple who fought on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Peconic Landing said.
“We are excited to be able to give back to the healthcare heroes who have been working tirelessly taking care of Long Islanders since this pandemic began,” said David Tannenbaum, CEO of New York Tent. According to the Bohemia-based company, they received over 50 entries from deserving couples.
Shaka, 30, and his fiancée Shannon, 27, who now live in Middle Island, were both working in their first years as full-time radiologic technologists when they heard about the contest, which initially consisted of one prize, a $40,000 tent package.
Having gotten engaged just a few days prior, they entered “on a whim” and quickly advanced to the Top 3, organizers said.
In June, 2020, they were notified that they’d won via Zoom. Next, they were told that in addition to the free tent, they’d also receive free venue space at Brecknock Hall and free wedding coordination services by Jill Gordon Celebrate of East Hampton.
Brecknock Hall is also home to Peconic Landing’s annual Veterans Day Wedding Giveback, which acts as an opportunity to thank military personnel and recognize them for their service; that event will not be held this year, Peconic Landing said.
“We thank Shaka and Shannon, and all frontline workers on Long Island, for their tremendous dedication to helping others over the last year and a half,” said Robert J. Syron, president and CEO of Peconic Landing. “We are honored to give back by providing a venue for their special day, and we wish them a lifetime of happiness together.”
Several dozen additional vendors reached out to offer their goods and services, including food, wine, flowers, bridal attire, and personal services including massage and teeth whitening appointments. The total value of donations is estimated to be between $150,000 and $200,000, according to Jill Gordon Celebrate.
“The moment I saw Shannon and Shaka’s entry video, I immediately wanted to jump on board as their wedding planner,” said Jill Gordon, owner and CEO of Jill Gordon Celebrate. “It felt important to honor healthcare workers during the pandemic. They’re so brave and giving of themselves, and these two have such incredible hearts. The entire experience has been a real bright spot during a dark time, and I’m continually heartened by the generosity of all the amazing vendors who are participating.”
The couple started dating in August, 2016 after meeting at a bar in Hampton Bays and connecting over their faith and their desire to help others, they said. Both decided to switch career paths and pursue radiologic technology and were simultaneously accepted into the School of Radiologic Technology at Peconic Bay Medical Center, where they studied together.
“We came into this field to help people,” said Shannon. “When other people were losing their jobs or struggling to put food on the table during the pandemic, we felt blessed to have meaningful work. We are young and healthy, so we were happy to do it.”
Originally from Trinidad, Shaka is a graduate of Riverhead High School and went to Suffolk County Community College before transferring to SUNY Oswego to complete his Bachelor’s degree in business administration, Peconic Landing said. Throughout the pandemic, he worked primarily at Stony Brook University Hospital, but now spends most of his time split between Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital.
Shannon graduated from Westhampton High School and received her Bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Tampa. She works full-time as a radiologic technologist at PBMC.
“The past year has been a completely humbling experience,” said Shaka. “We are still in awe and beyond grateful to everyone who voted and to the amazing vendors and donors for their generosity. The support has been unbelievable and we can’t thank everyone enough for this great experience.”
“Everything happens for a reason,” Shannon said.