Angel gowns offer comfort and support

Locals supporting locals in their time of grief and need: Rhonda Barker, Melinda Mills, Tess Chown, Kellie Brett and Kym Cross are the team behind Angel Gowns Mid North Coast. An open day, dress collection and volunteer meet and greet day is being held at Club Taree this Sunday.

Locals supporting locals in their time of grief and need: Rhonda Barker, Melinda Mills, Tess Chown, Kellie Brett and Kym Cross are the team behind Angel Gowns Mid North Coast. An open day, dress collection and volunteer meet and greet day is being held at Club Taree this Sunday.

FOR parents who lose a baby, the grief is unbearable.

A group of women from the Manning have come together in the hope they can offer a small piece of comfort to local families going through the devastating experience.

Angel Gowns Mid North Coast creates beautifully handcrafted gowns and wraps for babies who are born sleeping, who have not survived an illness, or are born prematurely and don't make it home from hospital.

Kym Cross was inspired to form the group after seeing posts from similar groups on Facebook.

"I started sewing and I got a local group together and a local team."

Those team members include Tess Chown, Melinda Mills, Kellie Brett and Rhonda Barker, who are all dedicated to supporting locals in their time of grief and need.

Not all are sewers, but all bring different skills to the group.

"The gowns are for stillborn babies, premature babies who don't make it and infants who die from illness in the first 12 months of life," said Kym.

"It is about acknowledging their birth and the idea is that the baby looks like an angel in an elegant outfit."

Statistics show six stillborn babies are born in Australia every day, which doesn't include premature babies who don't survive, while one in four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage.

Kym said the connection parents feel with their unborn child is strong, and with inroads into medicine they are given the opportunity to find out what they are having.

"As soon as you know you are pregnant it is real," said Kym.

"The father gets to feel the baby moving or put their ear on the tummy ... other children are excited too.

"We want to be able to let the parents know someone feels their pain."

Both Kym and Rhonda personally know how it feels to lose a child and they say it brings an understanding of what other parents are going through.

Rhonda lost a child at 20 weeks gestation and she also lost her daughter, aged 21, in a car accident on The Lakes Way last year (only a few months before losing her father).

"This is something really good to have come out of it and along the way I can help someone else who is grieving," said Rhonda.

Kym's daughter died at the age of 13 from a heart condition.

Her aim with this project is to offer parents "peace and light" during a dark time.

In addition to gowns and wraps for babies, the group can make gowns to fit children up to two years of age.

"We can also make garments for older girls and boys, which can be made to order," said Kym.

Men's ties are used to create vests.

Kym said the loss of a child doesn't have to have just happened to use the service.

"If you have lost a child we can make one for you to keep as a keepsake. We can make memorial gowns out of wedding gowns."

The group has donated gowns and wraps (for babies pre-20 weeks) to the Manning Hospital that will be stored in a bereavement cupboard along with memory boxes that are available to parents who experience this heartbreak.

They have also been in contact with local funeral homes about providing gowns and wraps to them.

Angel Gowns Mid North Coast covers Bulahdelah to Coffs Harbour and Gloucester and has also received support from Dubbo, Tamworth, the Central Coast and Queensland through its Facebook page.

The idea of using wedding gowns to make gowns for babies is not new, and the Pink Ladies have been creating and knitting smocks and gowns for the same purpose for some time.

Since the group's formation, they have received offers from people keen to donate or sew for them - offers which have been very welcome.

The first official donated gown came from Allyson Klysoon as soon as the Facebook page, Angel Gowns Mid North Coast, was launched.

"Being a country town we are locals supporting locals and the gowns are helping people in the community," said Kym.

All the brides who donate receive a thank you card.

They have pick up points in Taree, Wingham, Port Macquarie, Laurieton and Forster. The Taree the pick up point is Ace Salon Supplies and in Wingham it is Dress Up.

Dress collection day

ANGEL Gowns Mid North Coast will hold a dress collection and volunteer meet and greet on Sunday, August 31, at Club Taree from 10am to 3pm.

Donations of wedding and formal dresses will be accepted as well as much-needed materials including cotton, ribbon, fabric, glue and lace.

People interested in volunteering their time to deconstruct, sew and help package gowns to be donated to Mid North Coast hospitals and funeral homes are also welcome to attend.

For more information see the Facebook page www.facebook.com/angelgownsmidnorthcoast or email angelgownsmidnorthcoast@outlook.com

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