A lot of brides save their wedding dresses for special occasions and hand them down to their daughters. But some selfless brides are donating their gowns to help others, particularly babies who lose their lives before they leave the hospital. These gowns are called angel gowns, and a volunteer project turns them into beautiful burial garments for newborns. It’s a part of the NICU Helping Hands organization, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas. The group collects the dresses across the country and turns them into the special garments for families who suffer through a NICU tragedy.
The group’s founder, Lisa Grubbs, says the gowns are a symbol of hope for these parents who were expecting a healthy baby. She also says they are a way to honor the life of the baby who never got to go home with their parents. “There is something hopeful about a wedding dress and that full circle,” she tells KHOU. The brides who donate their dresses are asked to provide a $100 monetary donation to help cover the cost of making the angel gowns. Women who don’t have their own wedding gown to donate can sponsor a dress for someone else. Each gown can make about 10 little angel gowns. The dresses are delivered directly to hospitals, birthing centers and funeral homes, and they’re offered free of charge for grieving parents.
Tom and Deanna Williamson lost their son, Eli, at 20 weeks gestation back in 2015. They say they were so grateful that Levine Children’s Hospital gave them an angel gown for him.
Across the country, there are volunteer groups that turn old wedding gowns into angel burial gowns for newborns who die before leaving the hospital. One such group is Sunshine State Angel Gowns, which has a warehouse filled with hundreds of dresses. Its volunteers wash and cut up each gown and then turn it into a burial garment that is offered to hospitals, funeral homes and directly to grieving parents, free of charge.
Another such group is Angel Gown Sewers, a volunteer organization based in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Its seamstresses work to turn donated dresses into angel gowns and wraps for babies who lose their lives due to miscarriage, stillbirth or any other reason.
The organization was founded in April 2014 and received its 501(c)(3) non-profit incorporation in September of that year. Its mission is to ensure that every family who experiences an infant loss has a one-of-a-kind angel gown for their child. The group’s seamstresses are also available to assist families who have experienced a loss by providing support, guidance and comfort. The group relies on donations from the community, including brides, grooms and their loved ones, as well as local bridal shops and individuals. It’s important to have the dress professionally cleaned before donating it, but otherwise there are no other requirements. The organization accepts donations of any size and will ship them anywhere in the world. For more information, visit their website or Facebook page.