Program started by Marian Regional Medical Center employee transforms cherished wedding dresses into gowns for infants who never make it home from the hospital

Marian Regional Medical Center (MRMC), which along with Arroyo Grande Community Hospital (AGCH) and French Hospital Medical Center (FHMC), are Dignity Health’s Central Coast hospitals, is offering comfort to families who have suffered the devastating loss of a newborn through a community volunteer program called “Angel Gowns for Dignity.”

Angel Gowns for Dignity transforms lovingly donated wedding dresses into special, handmade gowns for babies who never make it home from the hospital. These “angel” gowns are gifted to grieving families for final photographs or burial.

The program was brought to MRMC by Susan Breshears, Senior Financial Analyst at Marian, who learned about angel gown donations and was moved to bring this heartwarming program to MRMC and the Santa Maria community.

“The purpose of Angel Gowns for Dignity is to not only bring comfort and healing to families, but to also provide these special babies with dignity in death,” say Breshears.  “Like our ministry at Marian, this program reflects what we stand for as an organization – to provide each person with the inherent dignity they deserve and to provide families in need with compassion and kindness.  I am truly touched by the outpouring of acts of humankindness I have witnessed as the program’s work is bringing healing to both grieving families and those who are sewing the gowns with love.”

Breshears, like many supporters of Angel Gowns for Dignity, was touched to learn that many families who have lost a child experience great difficulty finding burial outfits since traditional pieces of baby clothing are often too large for stillborn or premature infants. Through Angel Gowns for Dignity families can select not only one, but two gowns: one for the burial of their child and a second as a keepsake for families to cherish and remember their baby.

Since the program’s inception in April, women from across the Central Coast have been reaching out to donate their wedding dresses and volunteer their seamstress skills. To date, more than 20 seamstresses are donating their time to sew the angel gowns, and more than 100 wedding dresses have been donated.

Carrie Camacho is a registered nurse and one of some 15 MRMC employees who have recently donated their wedding dresses to Angel Gowns for Dignity.

“I have experienced four miscarriages and it means the world to me that my dress will provide comfort to a family experiencing such pain and sorrow,” explains Camacho.  “I feel that this donation means so much more than just providing a dress for material use; my hope is that I am able to bless another family and that through my donation they will feel the love I felt when I got married.”

Mary Richards, registered nurse and Newborn ICU Clinical Nurse Specialist, knows just how special angel gown donations are.

“Parents are usually never prepared for the loss of a baby,” says Richards. “The end of life should be as beautiful as the beginning of life and my prayer is that angel gown donations will honor these little angels and be both a positive and emotional gift for families.”

Those who wish to make a contribution in support of the Angel Gowns for Dignity Program are encouraged to contact the Marian Foundation at (805) 739-3595.

About Marian Regional Medical Center

Marian Regional Medical Center, located in Santa Maria, California, is rated among the top 10% in the nation for cardiac care and its cancer program is distinguished as the only comprehensive Community Cancer Center on the Central Coast.  The need to meet the demand for quality, technologically-advanced care for a growing community led Marian to open its doors to a new state-of-the-art, 191-bed facility in the spring of 2012.  The new facility houses the largest and most comprehensive perinatology/neonatology service providing the most compassionate, quality care to the littlest of patients. Marian is a Dignity Health member of the Central Coast, which also includes Arroyo Grande Community Hospital in Arroyo Grande, CA and French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, CA. Dignity Health of the Central Coast is an integrated network of top quality hospitals, physicians from the most prestigious medical schools, and comprehensive outpatient services including primary care offices, premier ambulatory surgery centers, technologically-advanced laboratories and imaging centers and a full service home health agency; all recognized for quality, safety and service.  Each hospital is supported by an active philanthropic Foundation to help meet the growing health care needs of our communities.