Lynn Gaber has put her heart into making beautiful dresses that she hopes no one will ever wear. But as a nurse in the cardiovascular surgery ICU at Mayo Clinic, Gaber knows firsthand the need for the "angel gowns" she creates. The tiny gowns, made from donated wedding dresses, are gifted to families whose babies pass away or are baptized in the hospital.
Gaber has helped care for such babies and their families for the past 37 years. She's witnessed the unfathomable pain that accompanies the loss of a child. So when one of Gaber's colleagues, Kelsey Chesney, put out a request on Facebook looking for someone to turn her wedding dress into angel gowns, Gaber quickly volunteered to serve as seamstress. It's a way, Gaber hopes, to give a small measure of comfort, even when a cure isn't possible. "Hopefully it helps the families a little to know their babies are going to heaven in something beautiful," she says.
That same hope is what motivated Chesney to donate her wedding dress. "You wear it once and then it hangs in your closet," she says. "I realized I could do more good by giving it away and making it something special for others, too." While she shares Gaber's wish that the gowns won't be needed, experience has taught her, she tells us, that "things happen."
Katelyn Young understands that, as well. Her daughter, Jett Everly Young, was born with a congenital heart defect. Katelyn and her husband, Jordan, were told that Jett would ultimately require a heart transplant. But just months after she was born, little Jett's health deteriorated and she passed away before she could receive a new heart.
Before Jett's passing, Katelyn and Jordan were offered an angel gown for their daughter. "We decided to have her baptized and did a few other special things for her in planning for her heavenly departure," Katelyn says. "We were able to pick out a beautiful angel gown for Jett to wear, and it could not have been more fitting and perfect for our baby girl." More than a year later, the dress remains a treasured gift. "The pictures we have of Jett in the gown and being able to still hold the gown in our hands make us remember the beautiful six months we had with her," Katelyn tells us. "Our angel gown is a significant piece of our daughter's life."
Knowing that some of the gowns are made by nurses makes them even more special, she says. "The nurses at Mayo are selfless, priceless and are truly walking angels on this earth," Katelyn tells us. "No wonder they call these gifts 'angel gowns' — they are donated by them."
Mariah Fuchsel agrees. Her daughter, Hadlee, received an angel gown that she wore for her baptism, which took place in her hospital room at Mayo Clinic. Not long afterward, Hadlee received a new heart — and a new chance at life. "It's just awesome that anyone even thought of making the gowns," Mariah says. And it's just part of the reason Mariah says leaving Rochester will be bittersweet. "We've loved everyone who has taken care of Hadlee. In a way, we'll be sad to leave."
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Tags: Kelsey Chesney, Lynn Gaber, Mayo Clinic Children's Center, neonatal intensive care unit, Patient Stories, Staff Stories, volunteers
Oh, Lynn- how beautiful these little gowns & suits are! So precious! Thank you for what you are doing!
would like to sew for you if help needed. My son died 28 years ago 45min. after birth, seems like yesterday. I knew he would pass,so I remade a grown for him from one my grandmother made for me. It made me feel like there was something I could do for him…would like to help others if needed. thank you.
Lynn, I am currently sitting at he Mayo Clinic in Phoenix with my husband that got a liver last Sunday. Your story touched my heart. I would love to give you my wedding dress. It has been sitting in a box for 20 years. I can not think of a better way celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary. Please send me the information on how to deliver it to you. I will be here for 4-6 weeks but will send it when we get home. God Bless You!
My email is email@example.com
I would really like to know how to donate to this? i have a wedding dress that needs to be out to good use
Yes please let me know where we can go to donate!
From the Editors: We’re told Lynn has received many offers of wedding dresses. She’s also had others volunteer to help, but they’re unable to take more dress donations at this time.
We understand Angel Gowns programs are active in many other locations. If you wish to donate a dress for the cause, consider contacting local hospitals to see if they’re in need of donations. You can also check with the NICU Helping Hands website to see if there are Angel Gowns programs in your area. https://www.nicuhelpinghands.org/programs/angel-gown-program/
I have a dress that I would love to donate
How can I donate my wedding dress?