When a baby dies during pregnancy, birth or shortly after, families need something to wrap their little one in. Across the country, seamstresses are taking discarded wedding dresses and making them into angel gowns for infant burials. The program, which started in 2013, is part of a national network. But a new group in the Akron area is expanding the concept, forming a network of volunteers that will send the gowns to hospitals and funeral homes nationwide.
When Edith Soholt found a dress at a garage sale that would be perfect for an angel gown, she knew she had to do something. The retired labor and delivery nurse was well aware of the heartache that accompanies stillbirths and newborns who don’t make it out of the hospital’s NICU. But when she read about a registered nurse in Indiana who was recruiting seamstresses to make the gowns, Soholt knew she had to help.
During her 37 years as a nurse, Lori Gulley has cared for many families who experienced the unimaginable loss of a baby. So when she saw a Facebook request for someone to sew the small garments, she volunteered immediately. “I think it gives the family a sense of peace that they have something to dress their child in,” she says. She’s now one of thousands of seamstresses across the country who’ve made angel gowns from donated dresses, helping grieving parents give their babies a little bit of comfort.
In the United States alone, 1 in 4 women will experience infant loss through miscarriage or stillbirth. For many families, the moment they lose their baby is also the last time they get to hold them. That’s why so many are appreciative of the gowns that volunteer seamstresses are able to create from used dresses. “I know how much they mean to the families that receive them,” Gulley, who lives in Naples, Fla., tells Fox News. “It is a gift that is so very special.”
In addition to being a registered not-for-profit organization, Angel Gowns of WNY is a local branch of the national program that started in Texas in 2013. They are hoping to expand their service to hospitals around the country, which will require more seamstresses. But for now, Gulley and the other volunteers work out of her home and a church basement in Darwin, Minn. They turn donated dresses and prom gowns into the final outfit for an infant who died during birth or shortly after, along with a knitted hat and blanket and a keepsake charm with either a cross, a heart or a Bible verse. The kits are given free to families who need them. You can support the effort by donating a dress, money or by spreading the word about this important program. You can find out more about Angel Gowns of WNY by visiting their website. You can also find out more about the national program by checking their Facebook page.