Sunday, January 18, 2015

Angel Gown Project

NICU Helping Hands, which gives support to bereaved families who have experienced infant loss, now has an Angel Gown Program, where wedding dresses are donated and transformed by volunteer seamstresses into tiny angel gowns for those premature babies who die.

One wedding gown can make a dozen or more tiny gowns. The parents then have something special and sacred in which to bury their child. NICU also takes pastel colored bridesmaid and prom dresses to make into these angel gowns. Many groups are now also donating their time to help make these dresses. Friends, family and other groups are donating fabrics and embellishments. For those who may not sew, those who want to, can help by pinning or cutting patterns, doing beading, ironing or just donating their time for whatever is needed.

So far, the group of bereaved parents and others have mailed over 3,000 gowns to hospitals and have 5,000 currently processing for more than 900 seamstresses across the country. What started in Fort Worth, TX by the founder of NICU Helping Hands, Lisa Grubbs, has taken off tremendously. “I’m speechless that so many have responded from across the country,” she said. There are now 164 hospitals across the nation getting these angel gowns that all these volunteers make.

“I knew immediately this was something I would love to do with my own wedding dress and told another mother in our Bereaved Parents group,” said June Erickson of Bereaved Parents of Anne Arundel County in Maryland when she heard about it.  Others followed her lead and the outpouring of support for this project has blossomed.

The NICU Helping Hands Angel Gown Program began in 2013 because they recognized the overwhelming need to support families who lost a baby while in the hospital. The program provides comfort for families by providing a beautiful gown for final photos and for burial services.

“There is no greater gift that can be given to a grieving family than affirming the importance of the life of their child by offering this simple gift free of charge,” the organization said.

Many of the donated wedding gowns are delivered with personal notes. Some heartwarming letters are filled with love and photographs; others have heartbreaking stories of loss. One mother’s baby died hours after being born. “It’s with a lot of joy and love that I give my dress, and I hope that these women realize how loved they are.”

Several dresses were donated on the birthday of children who passed away in the NICU. Others were left as a token of gratitude for babies who made it home and were still healthy. Some of the women wanted just one last picture of their prized possession. One man dropped off a dress he’d been keeping in his closet as a last memory of his beloved wife. He said his wife would have wanted her dress to find new life this way.

No matter how bittersweet letting go of a wedding gown was, every woman and man left knowing that the symbolic love of their dress will be shared with mothers and fathers grieving their little angels.

For additional information on other services or how you can donate your time, contact NICU Helping Hands, 301 Commerce Street, Suite 3200, Fort Worth, TX 76102

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