Angel gowns are a way to honor and remember lost babies. Often made from donated wedding dresses, these special garments help bereaved parents bury their child in something they can hold on to and look at for a long time.
One Minnesota woman is doing her part to make sure bereaved families have these precious garments. Patty Hauer and her group, called Angel Dresses, gather up wedding and prom dresses and sew them into burial outfits for infants and newborns who have died.
In the basement of All Saints Lutheran Church in Darwin, Minn., a group of church members and volunteers work on assembling “Angel Dresses” used for burial outfits for infants and newborns that die. The dresses, which are sewn by volunteers, are offered to hospitals, birthing centers and funeral homes free of charge.
It’s a simple idea, but an impactful one. It’s one that’s helping to shed light on the subject of infant loss and raising awareness, said Patty Neal, founder of Kennedy’s Angel Gowns.
She says the project began in 2012 after her daughter was stillborn, and it has been growing ever since, now serving families from across the country. Her goal is to create a community around her mission and raise awareness about the difficult conversation surrounding pregnancy and infant loss.
As an OB nurse, she witnessed firsthand how devastating it can be for grieving parents. She knew that an angel gown could provide a sense of comfort to those who have lost their babies, so she started sewing them up herself and started spreading the word about her work.
To date, she’s made over 100 angel gowns and has donated to hospitals in Minnesota, Montana and California. She’s hoping to expand the program so she can donate more gowns to bereaved families across the nation.
Several churches in South Jersey are joining in on the cause, too. Jean Lee, of Pennsauken, started an organization called “Angel Gown Sewers” to take donated wedding dresses and turn them into baby gowns or wraps for children who have passed away from miscarriage, stillbirth or who die before leaving the hospital.
Another group of volunteers, Hillary’s Cherished Gowns, has a mission to sew gowns for babies who have passed away. They collect donated gowns and have an active Facebook page where they share updates and request help with sewing the dresses.
Soholt, who has been a retired obstetrics nurse for more than 30 years, also works with her friend Sharon Fischman to cut up her mother’s wedding dress and transform it into a “baby angel gown” that can be given to a family who has lost a baby. The two have become friends and Soholt hosts monthly meetings where she and others can get together to sew the gowns.
She said she got the idea for her organization after she delivered a stillborn baby as a nurse. She says she hopes her efforts will help other bereaved parents feel less alone and give them some closure after their own loss.