"She showed me that she loved my daughter as much as she loved me," says Devon Still of why he proposed to his fiancee, Asha Joyce.

By Nicole Weisensee Egan
Updated March 16, 2016 09:00 AM
Advertisement
Image
Credit: Joseph Lin Photography

When NFL star Devon Still proposed to Asha Joyce two years ago, he gave her a list of the reasons he felt she was the right woman to marry, he tells PEOPLE exclusively.

Number one?

The way she feels about his daughter, Leah, now 5 years old.

“She showed me that she loved my daughter as much as she loved me,” says Still, 26, who recently signed with the Houston Texans. “With me it was very important that the woman I spend the rest of my life with looked at my daughter as if she was her own. Because we’re a package deal.”

Their wedding was put on hold for two years after the proposal while Leah fought Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare and deadly cancer. She was given a 50/50 chance of survival. Her diagnosis made headlines across the world after the Cincinnati Bengals cut Devon from their roster then re-signed him to their practice squad so he could keep his health insurance for Leah’s cancer treatments.

Last July, when it became clear Leah was on the path to recovery, Devon promised Asha her dream wedding in a heartfelt speech at the ESPYs, where he accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award on behalf of his daughter.

“You didn t have the typical engagement where you sit down and you plan everything because I didn’t want to do anything until I knew my daughter was going to be able to walk down that aisle as a flower girl,” Still said, his voice shaking. “And I thank you for being so unselfish and I promise you I’m going to try to give you the wedding of your dreams.”

Wedding experts from The Knot heard the speech and immediately sprang into action, choosing them as the recipients of this year’s Dream Wedding. America is invited to vote on each detail of the day – from Joyce’s dress to the flowers and the honeymoon – for the next eight weeks, beginning with the invitations on March 16.

“We were so moved by Devon’s speech and everyone here has been talking about it since that very moment he gave it,” Kellie Gould, editor in chief of The Knot, tells PEOPLE. “We saw it as an opportunity to take the stress out of their wedding planning so they could really focus on Leah and her health and her recovery.”

Need a little inspiration? Click here to subscribe to the Daily Smile Newsletter for uplifting, feel-good stories that brighten up your inbox.

They added an extra element just for Devon and Asha: Instead of registering for gifts, they created a registry to raise money for a cause near and dear to their hearts – pediatric cancer.

Both Devon and Asha were thrilled to be chosen and are ready for the voting to begin.

“I’m excited,” says Joyce, 26. “People think you should be nervous. We get to pick four different types of each element so we have some of our ideas in there, so I trust America to pick a good choice.”

One thing people won’t be voting on is Leah’s flower girl dress. She’s designing her own with designer Hayley Paige.

She says she’s excited about “being a flower girl and throwing the flowers out,” but also because she loves the woman her dad is marrying.

“I’m really happy I’m going to have a stepmother,” Leah tells PEOPLE.

To follow Devon, Asha and Leah’s journey to their dream day, follow #theknotdreamwedding and donate to the Still Strong Foundation, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children through their charity registry, powered by Crowdrise.