Losing a child is a devastating experience for any parent, but now women from across the province are doing what they can to bring comfort to those whose babies were stillborn, premature or sick and passed away.
Saskatchewan Angel Dresses was created by Becky Panter of Oxbow earlier this year and has sparked similar groups in other provinces. Women donate their wedding dresses or bridesmaid dresses to volunteers in their community, who then send them to seamstresses who use the fabric to make “angel gowns” for the babies.
In Maple Creek, Panter’s cousin Brandy Brown is collecting dresses from locals. Since she began taking donations in June, she has received about four bridesmaid dresses and one wedding dress. She takes the dresses to a seamstress in the area.
A typical dress can be used to make about 10 angel dresses, but wedding dresses with large flowing skirts can sometimes make over 20 little gowns.
Panter established the first angel gowns group in Canada after the loss of her own son in February. Christopher was born at 15 weeks when Panter went into labour at home.
“I had made some doll blankets for my daughter out of fleece, and that’s what I wrapped Christopher in. It was a bright little owl print fleece blanket,” she said.
When she found herself at home alone a few days later, the grieving mother of three wanted to find a way to help others going through the same situation.
“I was totally heartbroken, so I went (online) and the Regina NICU page had shared about the NICU Helping Hands out of Texas,” she explained.
Based in Fort Worth, Texas, the NICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown Program began in 2013 because of the overwhelming need to support families who lost a baby while in the hospital.
Panter wanted to donate her old wedding dress to the cause, but she didn’t want to have to send it all the way to Texas and have it sent all the way back to support families in the Prairies. She then decided to start a group in Canada. She made a call out on Facebook for a seamstress in her area.
“I got about 20 dresses from there and two seamstresses,” she said. “Then it bloomed about a month after that up to Saskatoon when they got wind of it through my cousin.”
Soon other groups were being formed in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Ontario.
Since its creation, Saskatchewan Angel Dresses has received over 1,000 dresses from all across the province.
“I’ve had probably 100 dresses come through my home alone,” Panter said. “The response has been great.”
The gowns are being sent to hospitals and funeral homes around Saskatchewan, but can also be requested by families.
Over 200 seamstresses are involved, including one in the Maple Creek area and two in Swift Current.
For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page, Saskatchewan Angel Dresses. A full list of drop-off locations and contacts is available there.