As of the first of this month, NICU Helping Hands is accepting donations of wedding dresses, not for mud runs or trash-the-dress photo shoots, but for something much more meaningful. The NICU Helping Hands Angel Gown® Program takes donated wedding dresses and refashions them into burial gowns for infants.
Losing a child is an agonizing experience for any parent. For parents who have spent nine months awaiting the arrival of a little one, only to find they will be returning home to an empty crib, the grief can be overwhelming. This is where Helping Hands comes in to offer families a small measure of comfort.
In its third year of operation, Helping Hands limits its intake to 2,000 dresses, what the more than 700 volunteer seamstresses can handle in a year. In 2014, they met this goal within two weeks of opening on-line registration. These experienced seamstresses spend hours transforming the silk, satin and lace into what resembles a baptismal or dedication gown. The delicate, unique creations do have the look of a garment fit for an angel. In addition to wedding dresses, light pink, light blue and lavender formal gowns are also accepted and transformed. Hospitals can request these gowns on behalf of families suffering the loss of a little one. Since donors cover all of the cost associated with intake, cleaning, refashioning, shipping and receiving, the gown comes as a gift at no cost to the grieving family. In addition, parents receive a keepsake angel pin and poem, along with informational resources on bereavement.
Angel Gowns are the brainchild of Lisa Grubbs, founder and president of NICU Helping Hands. “I started the Angel Gown® Program in Fort Worth after witnessing a family sorting through laundry baskets and buckets of donated clothing at a hospital after receiving the word that their baby had died,” said Grubbs. “I thought it was heartbreaking that a family that had just suffered such a great loss had to look through piles of clothing in search of something that might fit or be appropriate to dress their precious baby. What started as a small program locally, bloomed into a national program after a local television station shared our story and that story went viral internationally.” The program now receives requests from several hundred hospitals all over the United States. Their philosophy is simple, “The life of a child, regardless of how long that life is, matters and is important, and should be acknowledged in a way that is respectful and supportive of the family experiencing the loss. It is a privilege to travel this journey alongside families.”
To learn more about NICU Helping Hands Angel Gown® Program or make a donation, go to www.nicuhelpinghands.org/angel-gowns/.