A lot of brides treasure their wedding dresses for the rest of their lives or even hand them down to the next generation, but some selfless women are donating those dresses for a much more special cause. They are turning them into “angel gowns” that are gifted to families who lose their babies in the hospital.
Usually, the tiny babies are just wrapped in hospital blankets, but these gowns offer families something that is more sacred for their last photos and memorial services. A single dress can be made into dozens of angel gowns, and the seamstresses say it’s a very healing process to make the delicate dresses that are then donated to hospitals in NICU units across the country.
Mayo nurse Lynn Gaber says the gowns help provide hope and comfort for parents during a very difficult time. “They’re the most beautiful way to hold and wrap their little ones,” she tells KHOU. Gaber started the project after her son was born prematurely in 2014 and she saw how the hospital’s nurses helped her family through their compassion and care. “These little angels were so loved by their parents, and a way for their parents to say goodbye is through these beautiful gowns,” she says.
Jean Lee, who is part of the group of volunteer seamstresses that make the gowns, is a labor and delivery nurse who knows how common infant death is. In fact, there’s one baby every minute who doesn’t get to go home with his or her parents due to still birth or miscarriage. Her group, called Angel Gown Sewers, has 44 seamstresses from all over South Jersey who take donated wedding dresses and turn them into gowns for those precious babies who die before leaving the hospital.
The gowns are delivered to hospitals and bereavement groups around the area, including Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Melissa Tyo and Jessica Clarke-Pounder, who oversee the Comfort Committee at the hospital, say they’ve seen the importance of the gowns in helping to support families during their NICU stay.
“We see that this is a very important ministry that’s touching the hearts of many families,” Clarke-Pounder says. “We’re very grateful for the help that we get from the community,” she adds. “It’s so heartwarming to see people come together and be there for each other.” The project is run entirely on donations, with each bride who donates a dress asked to give a $100 monetary donation as well. Women who don’t have a wedding dress to donate can also sponsor a gown for another woman in need. To learn more about the angel gowns, or to donate a dress or money, visit the website.