A Lakeland Love Story With Courage at the Heart

It’s not everyday you find someone like that—someone who will drop everything to take care of you,” admits Nick Wood, former firefighter for the Lakeland Fire Department. After meeting at Harrison School of the Arts, falling in love and graduating in 2018, Nick and his bride-to-be, fourth generation Polk County native, Camryn Brooks, share a beautiful bond that has had to overcome the unexpected difficulties of life leading up to their special season of engagement.

“He really swept me off my feet. He makes me laugh, and we just giggle and have a good time,” says the cheerful 23-year-old.

This same positivity has been a foundation through quite a scary chapter in their story.

Unexpected Turn

While the now 24-year-old was training to become a paramedic in 2022 Nick was involved in a serious traffic accident that left him unconscious and put him in the hospital for two weeks.

He suffered broken limbs and fractured ribs. “I was out for 48 hours,” Nick shares. “The people I was with everyday felt like family to me.”

Camryn said Nick was so courageous through the entire ordeal, and going through something like that together brought an incredible amount of growth to their relationship.

“When you don’t know what the next day will bring, it can be very overwhelming to not know how [the person you love will recover],” Camryn says.

In the midst of this challenging time as Nick recovered, they both found it a blessing to be surrounded by the City of Lakeland’s Fire Department crew––around 20 to 30 members––who showed up in multiple ways to support them. From bringing meals to donating extra PTO for Nick’s recovery, they were able to glean strength from their community, as well as lean on each other.

“As a whole, they were pulling for Nick during this time,” Camryn shares.

“[Cam] was by my side the whole time. We live in a third story apartment, and everyday, she helped me get up and down the stairs,” he shares.

She would coordinate his meals, drive him to physical therapy appointments and make sure he had what he needed to heal well and stronger.

Thankfully, after seven long months, Nick was able to recover. During the process he realized this life-changing accident would catapult him into his next big move: the decision to propose to the love of his life.

“She sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am today,” shares Nick. “While I began my recovery and witnessed [Cam] show up for me day in and day out, I knew I needed to ask this girl to marry me before she gets away.”

For seven months, Camryn faithfully helped Nick face the devastation of such a challenging recovery. While still working full time, she was determined to stay by his side and helped him gain strength.

While I began my recovery and witnessed [Cam] show up for me day in and day out, I knew I needed to ask this girl to marry me before she gets away.”

The Proposal

As Nick walked through his painful recovery for seven months, he began to contact family members to plan an intimate moment to pop the question in front of both families. An upcoming summer trip to the mountains visiting Nick’s side of the family seemed like the perfect setting to bring everyone together.

“I planned it all out with my grandpa…it was really special,” expresses Nick. On July 9, 2023, Nick nervously and excitedly popped the question to Camryn surrounded by their loved ones at the top of Cove Mountain in Wears Valley, Tennessee.

“The 9th seems to stick out for us [throughout our love story] because we started dating September 9, 2016, got engaged July 9, 2023, and we are set to get married November 9, 2024,” Cam shares.

Saying Yes to the Dress

At a local wedding expo at Haus 820, Camryn entered into a drawing with up-and-coming bridal shop Elope Bride. Soon after, she received word that she had won $500 off her dream wedding dress––a huge blessing as the wedding planning began.

“[Elope Bride] is amazing; ever since I met one of the sales reps from their company, they were super warm and welcoming,” Camryn says about the boutique located at 947 Florida Ave. S. “Wedding dress shopping can be nerve wrecking. They were so patient and non-pressuring during the process. Their dresses are modern, and they go above and beyond to collect newer pieces that represent high trends.”

During her third appointment with the Elope Bride team, she slipped into a dress pulled by shop owner Shantel Griffin. This particular wedding gown was one of many that had just arrived exclusively from Chicago, Ill.

It was the one.

“It was meant-to-be––absolutely perfect and my overall favorite dress,” shares Cam.

Griffin says moments like that stick with her. “We loved getting to meet the [Camryn] at the Haus 820 expo and helping her find her dream dress,” shares Shantel. “I was here when she found her dress [and saw her reaction]. It was so special.”

In an effort to support local small businesses, both Nick and Camryn made it essential for their vendors to be Lakeland/Polk County based. Finding a whimsical, ethereal bridal shop like Elope was more than timely.

“You always put your name in for a raffle, and you never expect to win. Getting to work with Elope after winning was absolutely incredible,” recounts Cam.

Lakeland is such a great city. We’re still small in terms of our traditions, but I love the fact that [Lakeland] is up and coming. I’ve witnessed the changes it has experienced over the last several years.”

Local Fairytale

When it comes to their wedding day, Camryn and Nick do not shy away from their love for local and for the state they call home.

“Our wedding is centered around our love for old Florida’s charm,” explains Nick.

Leading up to their special nuptials set to take place on November 9 at Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve, the couple is excited to finalize their wedding vendors to support as many businesses within the community.

Catering will be from Il Forno—where Cam works as the manager—and their delectable food will be paired with a mobile bar setup by Frankly Bartending. Weddings by Crown will be doing photography for the couple. Perfect Day Productions is event planning/coordinating. Storybook Weddings will be doing videography, and they picked out their rings at Spath Jewelers.

“Lakeland is such a great city. We’re still small in terms of our traditions, but I love the fact that [Lakeland] is up and coming. I’ve witnessed the changes it has experienced over the last several years,” shares Cam.

Through their journey as they faced such a dark time in their lives, they found solace not only in one another, but in family and in this community of Lakeland they’ve called home for many years.

They are grateful for the people who guided their recovery. Day in and day out, their community surrounded them with continuous support through meals, consistent check-ins, and daily encouragement.

“[All of this] brought us closer together,” Nick admits.

Nick’s love for serving people, and his ability to do so, have also stood the test of time. In March, he celebrated being sworn in as a firefighter for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Even on the other side of life’s greatest adversities, love reminds us to hope again.