Angel Gowns for Infants Comfort Families

The NICU Helping Hands’ Angel GownNICU Helping Hands Program was founded in 2013 in response to an overwhelming need of support for families who have lost a baby. Through the program, a custom-made gown is beautifully created out of a wedding dress donation, and gifted to a bereaved family to be used for final photos and burial services. The Angel Gown Program seeks to affirm the importance of the child’s life by offering the gift of an Angel Gown, as well as supporting the grieving family both emotionally and educationally.

Brides from around the world donate wedding dresses to the program, which are then distributed to over 700 volunteer seamstresses throughout the United States. The wedding dress donations are artistically crafted into beautiful, one-of-a-kind garments for families to wrap their babies in. Angel Gowns are presented freely to any hospital or family who requests them.

“Our garments are a gift of love from both a bride and a seamstress to honor not only a precious baby but their family as well.” – NICU Helping Hands

The Angel Gowns are wrapped in white tissue paper and placed inside a white presentation box that contains a keepsake angel pin, poem, and a copy of their Bereaved Parent Resource guide and support program information.

Angel Gown Program for bereaved families of infants

  (Photo by NICU Helping Hands)

Lisa Grubbs is the founder of NICU Helping Hands and the Angel Gown Program. Grubbs and her husband, who is a specialist for premature babies, sought to support families grieving the death of a newborn child.

Former NICU nurse and volunteer for the Angel Gown Program, Amy Vickers, remembered that in the past “we would just wrap little babies just in tiny little hospital blankets or washrags or towels, and we didn’t really have much to offer those families.” While she knew that it wouldn’t take the hurt away from the family, she explained that Angel Gowns “lets them know that we feel like their baby’s life means something.”

Grubbs didn’t want families having to sort through donated clothes in a hospital bin to find something for their baby to wear during their final moments together. The clothes provided were usually too big for such tiny newborns, or they were inappropriate for grieving. The Angel Gowns Program seeks to provide unique and special garments for families to dress their babies who don’t make it home.

Gowns are created for both boys and girls, from the littlest preemies to full-term infants. Angel Gowns are for babies who will not leave the hospital and infants who succumb to birth defects, complications from prematurity, or are stillborn.

Most women who donate wedding dresses, according to Grubbs, often do so for personal reasons, including losing an infant of their own or having a miscarriage. The same goes for volunteer seamstresses, who mostly work for personal reasons at their own at home. One wedding dress donation can create twelve to twenty Angel Gowns.

“There’s something hopeful about that start of life, about a wedding, and to me, it’s that full circle. This child who is so loved by its parents, being wrapped in love by a bride.” – Lisa Grubbs

NICU Helping Hands has received overwhelming support from volunteers and people who donate wedding dresses to their Angel Gowns Program. In 2014, the organization received over 8,000 wedding dress donations. In addition to donating wedding dresses, you can also make monetary donations to help with the packaging and shipping of the dresses. Find out the specific guidelines to donate wedding dresses or make a monetary donation on the NICU Helping Hands website.

“Grief is not a moment or an event — it is a process, and a long, difficult one… Providing this garment, along with caring and support, gives validation to the parent and also sets a more positive foundation for this journey.” – Lisa Grubbs

At Everlasting Footprint, we encourage you to enjoy your journey, and give along the way. Make a donation or mention this cause to a bride this month. Every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things, and we think that NICU’s Helping Hands Angels Gowns Program is an extraordinary thing.

About Catherine Powell

Catherine Powell, BA, loves to write and edit, especially with a cup of espresso on hand. Her English degree with a psych minor means she studies the rapidly-changing digital world and the workings of the human mind. Born in Germany, Catherine is inspired by the language, the culture, and her travels. She and her husband live in Tallahassee, Florida, with their Labrador-mix dog.


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