Love story reaches across the globe

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Love has no boundaries for one Walker County couple. 

Riley Brown knew she wanted to do something unique this Valentine's Day to celebrate her nearly seven-year love story with Dakotah Stanton. She came across an idea on social media and pitched it to her friends and family on Facebook.

Brown asked people to write the following phrase on a card or piece of paper and insert their location: "Dakotah, Riley’s love for you is so BIG it has reached (enter location)." People then took a picture while holding the written phrase (almost always with a beautiful landscape in the background) and submitted the photographs to Brown to include in a video and a scrapbook.

She made the plea for help with the Valentine's Day project on Jan. 29. What happened next was unexpected. 

"I never thought it would get as much attention as it did. I had gone to do something and when I came back, in an hour, there were over 150 comments," Brown said. "That just absolutely blew me away, all the people willing to take time out of their day to help me with something."

Many people shared the project Brown was working on and contacted anyone who could contribute. In only one week, Brown received pictures from 50 states, over 15 countries, and six continents, totaling over 150 photos.

She created an eight-minute montage with all of the pictures and placed them into a scrapbook. In fact, Brown's love was "so big" for Stanton that the original scrapbook she bought was too small to hold all of the photographs.

"My mom and I were talking about how you see so much negativity surrounding social media, and it was so neat to see everyone come together for this common good," she said. "It was people that I didn't even know that were taking the time out to help me do a project."

Brown said one of the most unique pictures she received for the project was of the Northern Lights in Iceland, and some of her father's friends from Rwanda submitted a picture. 

National Geographic star Susan Aikens of "Life Below Zero", a program based on living off the grid in Alaska, even took part in the project.

"Instead of doing a card, she sent a video for me to send to him. He was just over the moon, ecstatic about that one," Brown said. "I've never seen someone love a show as much as that, but he loves it."

Brown didn't wait until Valentine's Day to surprise Stanton with the project, and she showed him the video and scrapbook last week. At first, he thought she was highlighting the places they had traveled to, but he quickly realized it was much more than that.

"He was so surprised," Brown said. 

Stanton and Brown got engaged on Oct. 5, 2019, and will be getting married on Oct. 11 this year. The high school sweethearts have been inseparable since they first met as young teenagers at a Cordova High School football game on Oct. 7, 2013. They initially met on Instagram and had been texting for five months prior to their initial meeting.    

Stanton attended Cordova High and played for the school's football team, while Brown was an Oakman Wildcat.

"I made the joke all the time during Oakman and Cordova week that we were like Romeo and Juliet," Brown said with a laugh.

Both graduated in 2017. Brown works as an occupational therapy assistant, while Stanton currently works for a machine supply company.   

"We're basically the same person, to be honest," Brown said. "We like the same things. We're both very passionate about what we do. He's just my better half and my best friend. I couldn't imagine being with anyone else, as cliche as that sounds. We just go together so well."

The couple has always traveled, so this year's Valentine's Day present to Stanton was sentimental of their love and the journeys they have gone on together. 

"I am just so thankful for Dakotah and our life that we've got to live together and all the years that we have to look forward to," Brown said, reflecting on her gratitude this Valentine's Day. "I'm thankful for my family. I'm thankful for them raising me in such a good Christian home and giving me two good feet to stand on."