In the grand tapestry of life, there are moments of incredible joy and heartbreaking sorrow. During the most difficult times, families must find a way to endure. In those instances, there is a beacon of hope that shines brightly. This hope is embodied in the work of a group of dedicated and passionate seamstresses who are sewing bereavement gowns for babies who lose their lives before, during, or immediately after birth. This small gesture, known as an angel gown, is a special keepsake that provides comfort to grieving families.
In the United States, 626,000 infants are stillborn or die from miscarriage each year. These precious angels are often the last thing on parents’ minds as they are trying to focus on their surviving children, preparing for a funeral or memorial service, and saying goodbye to a loved one. This is why the work of groups like Angel Gowns of WNY, which is based in West New York City and was started by Missy Ray, is so important. Missy’s organization receives donated wedding dresses, which are then transformed into beautiful, one-of-a-kind angel gowns for infants who don’t get to go home with their parents.
The Williamson family is one of many who have experienced the loss of a baby in the NICU. After their son, Eli, passed away at nine months gestation, they wanted to do something in honor of him. That’s when they discovered Hillary’s Cherished Gowns, a volunteer organization in Akron that sews bereavement gowns for infants who do not survive their NICU stay.
Earlier this month, the nonprofit’s seamstresses and volunteers delivered their first box of angel gowns to Providence Little Co Of Mary Hospitals in Torrance and San Pedro. Each angel gown kit comes with a special gown, blanket, two hats, and heart and memorial trinkets. They are designed for smaller babies and can be used for the very first and last photos, at memorial services, or when family arrives to say goodbye.
The goal is to provide one of these angel gowns to each newborn that will pass through the NICU, and it’s an ongoing effort for Missy Ray. She says that people can help by donating dresses, spreading the word about her organization, or simply donating money to help cover the cost of materials.
Next time you see a dress at the local thrift store or garage sale, think twice before putting it back on the rack. Instead, consider donating it to an organization like Angel Gowns of WNY. You may never know how much it will mean to a grieving family. To learn more, visit the organization’s Facebook page.