In 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. It is a time to especially remember children who passed during pregnancy and shortly after.
In the Midstate, there are a number of organizations that offer families support all year long. Sweet Grace Ministries, based in Chambersburg, holds a yearly “Walk to Remember” with speakers and the reading of babies’ names to remember children and to raise money and awareness for its mission to support those who have lost children.
In recent years, it has launched a gown program which takes donated wedding gowns and turns them into burial gowns.
Sweet Grace Ministries Founder Katy Dortenzo founded the organization after losing her daughter, Cicely Grace, during pregnancy. On Good Day PA, Dortenzo explained there there are many organizations across the United States with a gown program and that, “Sweet Grace felt that it was important to do this as part of what we provide because so many parents don’t have outfits for babies to go home with.”
Kristy Roles was both a donor and a recipient of a gown. Roles and her husband were expecting their third child when at 19 weeks along, they were told that their baby boy had Holoprosencephalym, or HPE, causing his brain to not fully develop. Their baby’s diagnosis was that he may not survive until birth or would die shortly after birth.
Roles named her baby boy, Zeke, and reached out to Sweet Grace Ministries for support. During that pregnancy, Kristy opted to donate her wedding gown to the program.
“I turned it in because I wanted to help other parents have an outfit for their child when they bury them,” said Roles.
Zeke was born and lived for four months and after his passing she received a gown for him… made from her own gown that she had donated
“I was not expecting that,” Roles recalled. “It’s precious because your wedding dress is precious to you on your wedding day. So is your child whether they’re here on earth or in heaven.”
Burial gowns are available for parents who expect that they will need them. In addition, gowns are available from nine Pennsylvania hospitals that partner with Sweet Grace Ministries.
Sweet Grace Gown Night is held every fourth Thursday of the month in Chambersburg for those interested in helping to create burial gowns. For how to donate gowns or the talents to create them, email email@example.com. Those who would like to request a gown may email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (717) 414-7772.