Group Creates Beautiful Burial Gowns for Babies From Donated Wedding Dresses

The group works with the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester.

— -- In Rochester, New York, a volunteer group uses donated wedding dresses to create gowns, bonnets and booties for babies who die at a local children's hospital.

Bernadette Reidy, the coordinator of the volunteer group, Caring Hands for Angels, told ABC News today that her group works with the Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester to sew the burial gowns. The group has about 20 volunteers including those who knit, crochet and sew, as well as some who just help organize, she said.

"A lot of our volunteers are also women who have lost babies," Reidy said. "And one of the things that we know is that when a baby is lost, there's very little people can do at that moment to comfort a parent.

"And so to make a beautiful gown for a baby ... so the parent can hold them that way for the last time -- that's their last memory of them -- is very special to them," she added.

When creating the gowns, the group tries "very hard to accommodate medical needs," Raidy said. For instance, they're working on designing gowns that could accommodate chest tubes, she said.

Raidy described the creation as a "very intricate process." The necessary time can differ from gown to gown, but ones with hand beading can take up to a day, she said.

"We want the mother to know ... that we took great care in making it for her baby," Raidy said.

The group's efforts are "simply a way ... that we show respect for that baby's life," she continued, "and it expresses to the parents our sympathy when words really aren't possible."

The group works with three units: Labor and Delivery, the Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit (NICU) and the Pediatric Cardiac Care Center, she said.

Reidy said they've made gowns for premature babies as young as 20 weeks and babies up to 6 months old, adding that some parents who have received gowns want to donate, too. Reidy said after the gowns are cleaned, some volunteers work to take them apart.

Dr. Timothy Stevens, the NICU medical director and chief clinical officer of the Golisano Children’s Hospital, told ABC News that the program "fits into our overall commitment to our families -- regardless of what they're going through, we're there for them."

"The vast majority of times ... when a family comes to deliver a baby it's one of the most joyous times," Stevens said. "Unfortunately, there are families who experience a loss, and during that grieving process the group is able to provide a meaningful gift.

"So no matter what the family is going through, we're there to support them ... and to provide the best care that we can, including the most compassionate care," he said.

A representative for the medical center said 1,200 babies are cared for in the Golisano Children’s Hospital NICU each year.

The Caring Hands for Angels program "works hand in hand with our staff to deliver care, compassion and sympathy that a family needs when they lose a child," Stevens said. "Their donations are a beautiful and tangible symbol of compassion and a reminder to these families that they are not alone in their grief."