Angel Gowns Offer Comfort to Grieving Families

In the grand tapestry of life, there are moments of immense joy and heartbreaking sorrow. For families coping with the unimaginable loss of an infant, special garments known as angel gowns can offer a small bit of comfort during their time of grief.

A nonprofit organization named Hillary’s Cherished Gowns has been sewing these special gowns for families in the Akron area since 2018. The group is made up of local seamstresses who donate their time to this mission, and one such volunteer, Allison Harris, an audiologist at Riley Children’s Hospital, feels a personal connection to the group’s mission. Her own daughter, Leah, passed away at 9 months of age.

Last year, she began volunteering at Riley and saw the impact the gowns have on families going through a difficult situation they never asked for or expected. “It’s very emotional to help them dress their baby and make memories that are going to last a lifetime,” she says. “When they come to the hospital and see their baby dressed in a beautiful gown, it’s something they can keep for their whole lives.”

Little Angel Gowns, started in Indiana, partners with hospitals to provide these angel gowns to grieving families, who are often left with nothing but empty arms after losing their infant. It is a project that resonated with Dawn Crippen and Krystle Black, who started the Southwest Michigan chapter of Little Angel Gowns in Kalamazoo. The mothers say they’ve seen a positive impact from their work, and that it has helped them find purpose in the tragedy of losing their sons and daughters.

The women use donated wedding dresses to sew the special gowns. They’re also involved with educating the public and bringing awareness to the silence that surrounds infertility, miscarriage, early neonatal and still birth loss. They speak wherever they can to bring comfort and hope to these families.

Despite their many accomplishments, the women say they’re always looking for ways to improve their operation. One thing they’re hoping to do in the future is to get more women involved in their mission.

“It’s so important to have more people involved in the cause,” says Mangiaracina. “We can grow more quickly with the help of more volunteers.”

In the meantime, the ladies continue to make their gowns out of donated wedding dresses and other formal wear. They’ve already received more than a dozen donations, and the women are busy working on them to be ready for delivery.

In the past, the women have also been able to make gowns for other hospitals in their area through a partnership with the Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. They’re currently working on a partnership with Dignity Health – St. Mary’s Medical Center Long Beach, California. The NICU at that hospital extends their deepest gratitude to the women of Little Angel Gowns, who have touched the hearts and lives of many of its tiniest patients. “As a family-centered facility, we understand that the loss of an infant is an extremely challenging experience,” the hospital’s website states.