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PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A Pittsburgh man whose wedding was called off is making the best of the situation, transforming his reception this weekend into a charity event for an organization that provides free surgery in developing countries.
Selling tickets to his pre-paid reception, Phil Laboon said on Thursday that the event has sold out and he expects to raise about $50,000 from the ticket sales and other collected donations for Surgicorps International.
"It's not my wedding, but I'm sure it will be something I will remember for the rest of my life," said the 32-year-old man. He declined to say why his wedding had been canceled.
Laboon said he was touched by Surgicorps' work on children, some of whom were born with birth defects or have suffered from burns.
"When you think about having to call off your wedding at the last minute, the last thing you think about is what are you going to do next," Laboon said. "But then you think about what these kids have to go through."
Laboon said he has dubbed his wedding reception "LemonAID," after people reminded him of the old adage about making lemonade when life gives you lemons.
Laboon's love life may benefit as well. He said he has gotten about 500 Facebook friend requests, mostly from women and "some even from moms or grandmothers looking to set me up with their daughters or granddaughters."
But he said: "This fundraiser is my current fiancé or girlfriend."
Laboon, who works in Internet marketing, said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was one of the first to step up and donate a luncheon that will be raffled off at the benefit.
Surgicorps International was founded by a Pittsburgh plastic surgeon to send medical professionals abroad to perform free surgeries on those in need.
On a recent five day-trip to Guatemala, Surgicorps performed more than 100 free surgeries, executive director Linda Esposto said.
"There's been an overwhelming response to Phil's story and, with his story hopefully, it will benefit Surgicorps not just on Sunday but in the future," Esposto said.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Sandra Maler