In romance movies, there is often a scene called the “meet cute,” where a couple meets in an unusual or quirky way, and then the love story builds. Later, the meet cute is the story the couple tells others when they’re asked, “How did you meet?”
For Jordan Watson and Kelly Quiroz, their meet cute happened as volunteers at St. Jude.
Watson grew up in Mississippi and graduated from the University of Mississippi. He had heard of St. Jude and knew people from college who raised money for the hospital through university organizations. After moving to Memphis in January 2019 when he accepted a marketing job at FedEx, he was in a new city and wanted to make stronger community connections.
“I was feeling a little lost and a close friend told me to find something I enjoy doing that is also of service,” he said. “As a swim coach, I knew I enjoyed working with kids. When I discovered that St. Jude offered the opportunity to volunteer, it felt like a good fit.”
He applied to volunteer at St. Jude in April 2019 and started orientation the following September. He attended the same orientation as Quiroz.
“I thought she was really pretty, and I still recall the green shirt she wore from our first day,” he said.
Quiroz was preparing to attend nursing school. She chose to volunteer at St. Jude as an outlet for community service, and to become more comfortable in a hospital setting before nursing school. Now an ICU nurse at Baptist, she recalls her initial thoughts about Watson.
“He was a sweet and kind of dorky guy. Cute and motivated, and the reasons he gave for volunteering stood out. He seemed like a really decent person,” she said.
They were on Happy Cart duty together the first week. They got to know each other better as they walked through the hospital pushing the cart and passing out toys, coloring books and puzzles to patients.
“It wasn’t typical small talk,” Watson said. “We talked about our faith, insecurities and goals.”
Quiroz added, “We talked for hours in the parking lot after our volunteer shifts were over. After a few times, I was like, ‘When is he going to ask me out?’”
Watson would check the schedule to see when Quiroz would be on campus. He scheduled himself for the same times.
“I kept thinking that we were always on the same shift together—what a coincidence,” she said. “I found my own ways to get closer, too. I invited him places with other friends to try to show him more interest.”
In March 2020, a nervous Watson called Quiroz to ask her on a date. Of course, she accepted.
“It was the week everything started shutting down because of the pandemic, and I had to get creative,” Watson said. “We walked by the river, and I made food for a picnic.”
Watson made different types of sandwiches because he wasn’t sure what she would like. She was impressed that he remembered that she liked Cheetos and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and had some packed for her.
Watson believes the limitations of the pandemic helped them connect faster. “Usually dates surround dinner and a movie, which can limit real conversation. I found that walking down by the river or dinner in a backyard requires a little more creativity and allows for deeper communication.”
St. Jude is special to us because this is where we built our fondness for each other. Once I asked Debbie (Garrett), she made sure it all happened, down to reserving the pavilion if it rained and getting a photographer to capture it all.
Volunteers were not allowed on the hospital campus during the early stages of the pandemic. But they both returned to volunteer when they could. In April 2022, Watson called Debbie Garrett, Volunteer Services coordinator, and asked if there was a way to plan a proposal to Quiroz at St. Jude.
“St. Jude is special to us because this is where we built our fondness for each other,” he said. “Once I asked Debbie, she made sure it all happened, down to reserving the pavilion if it rained and getting a photographer to capture it all.”
Garrett said that she loved watching their love story unfold and is thankful to have played a small part. “Jordan told me their story as we walked around campus to find the perfect spot for him to propose, and I could tell that he was completely smitten.”
Quiroz said everyone did a good job keeping the proposal secretive. She was completely surprised in the moment. In hindsight, she recalls some moments leading up to the proposal that seemed odd.
Garrett devised a volunteer team photo opportunity as a ruse and said to wear their Sunday best.
“When I realized we were the only two people who showed up for pictures, I started to get nervous,” Quiroz said.
Watson knew he had a limited amount of time before she would figure things out, so that’s when he proposed. From there, the proposal was picture perfect—Watson dropped to one knee and opened a black velvet box with a ring inside. Of course, Quiroz said, “Yes.”
The happy couple have set a wedding date for December 2022 in Memphis.
“What’s better than a Christmas wedding?” Quiroz said. “This will be our first real challenge—planning a wedding in a short amount of time,” Watson said.
When both started volunteering, they weren’t looking for future partners—they were looking for community connections and personal growth. They found both, but with the bonus of finding each other.
“I volunteered at St. Jude to enrich others’ lives, and, in the process, I found a person who enriches mine as well,” Watson said.
“I think this is a great relationship story,” Quiroz added. “And we are definitely inviting Debbie to the wedding.”