A ‘little angel’s’ final gown: Program providing outfits for families who have lost children before or during birth to ND hospitals
FARGO — While sisters Dani Gillett and Pam Stewart have never lost infants of their own, they know people who have, and they said they can’t imagine losing a baby and then having to go shopping for a burial outfit.
The women have started a program called Outfits for Angels to provide gowns for final photos and funeral services for babies who die before or during birth.
Now, they are reaching out to North Dakota hospitals and would like to offer their gowns in every hospital throughout North Dakota.
So far three hospitals have agreed to participate in the program: Jamestown Regional Medical Center, Presentation Medical Center in Rolla and Fort Yates Indian Health Services.
“I feel that once we get this totally up and running that it will be a great impact on families who have lost little angels,” said Stewart, of Fargo. “I couldn’t imagine having to deal with that along with having to find clothing to put your little angle to rest in.”
Gillett said the simple gift affirms for families the importance of the life of their child.
The sisters heard about a similar program and thought it would be a good use for their wedding dresses. Then they decided instead of donating their dresses to an out-of-state program, to start a program in North Dakota in honor of their mom, Ellen Overby Stewart, who died nearly three years ago.
“We come from a huge family, and unfortunately our family has had lots of loss,” Stewart said. “Our mother would have jumped at the opportunity to make these gowns for these little angles in a heartbeat. She is the drive behind this organization.”
“It’s something my mom would have gone full-throttle on,” said Gillett, of Glyndon, Minn. “She would have loved it. She sewed all of our clothes when we were kids. She was always helping people, always babysitting for everybody.”
The women started working on the program in February. Gillett, 40, is the organizing force behind the program, and 35-year-old Stewart jokes that she just does what she’s told.
They’ve received donated wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses. They have family members lined up to help them sew the outfits. They have also been contacted by volunteers willing to knit caps to go with the outfits, donate photography to the families, and deliver the outfits to various hospitals.“There have been many tears shed with the generous donations that have come in,” Stewart said. “Without them we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Participating hospitals will keep a stock of outfits for boys and girls in four sizes. There are also shawls for infants who are too small to fit into a gown. Hospitals and families will not be charged for the outfits.
Gillett said the feedback they’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive. They’ve had a lot of people share stories through the Outfits for Angels Facebook page. Those people said they wished there would have been a program like this when they lost their child, Gillett said.
Gillett feels very emotional that the program will impact so many people, she said.