Angel Gowns are small, custom-made baby burial dresses made from donated wedding dresses for families who experience a late miscarriage or stillbirth. Many organizations across the United States make these gowns for families, often offering them to hospitals and birthing centers free of charge.
Volunteers from all over the country help sew these gowns for grieving families. Some are donating their wedding gowns while others are transforming used dresses from friends and family members into the garments.
QUENCY — Sewing for herself isn’t her favorite activity, but Ann Awerkamp Dickson has found a creative outlet in turning old wedding dresses into tiny gowns for stillborn babies. “It is something that holds a very special place in my heart because of what I experienced,” she said.
As a nurse, Dickson knows firsthand that the loss of a child is devastating. She’s seen the aftermath of a stillbirth and the impact it has on an already fragile family unit. She hopes her gown will bring some light to a difficult situation and help parents remember their lost children in a way that is meaningful to them.
For most brides, a wedding dress is an item that they only wear once. It’s also a precious piece of clothing that’s usually kept in a safe box in a closet or attic.
But for a group of women who have a special connection to each other, a dress can hold a lot more meaning than just a simple piece of clothing. They are dedicated to giving new life to old dresses with the help of their local communities and churches.
The group, which is based in Quincy and named Kennedy’s Angel Gowns, has been collecting donated wedding dresses since the fall. They have a long list of recipients, including hospitals, funeral homes and birthing centers.
Heather and her partner, Demitri Wilson, registered as a nonprofit organization in order to receive donations that are tax-deductible. They had been receiving monetary donations and other items from friends and family, but decided to register with the IRS in order to operate more smoothly.
They have a large team of volunteers who work in the basement of All Saints Lutheran Church in Darwin, Minn. They are always accepting wedding and special occasion dresses and monetary donations to cover the cost of shipping and sewing supplies.
One of the dresses that is pictured here was donated by Susan Arnold, who has been volunteering with Hillary’s Cherished Gowns for nearly 20 years. She and her daughter, Allison Harris, an audiologist at Akron Children’s Hospital, took their four generations of wedding dresses to the nonprofit organization and gave them a new purpose.
Their mission is to provide these gowns and other infant bereavement clothing to families in the Akron area. The dresses, along with hats and blankets, can be used for a baby’s funeral or a ceremony after their death.
As part of a project called Project NICU Helping Hands, volunteers from around the region donate their time to sew a dozen or so dresses for newborns who die in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. These outfits can be buried or used as baptism gowns, according to Judi Clarke-Pounder of Pennsauken, who helps organize the program. She says it’s important to have these dresses available in the hospital because it provides a comforting item for the bereaved.