BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — October 15th is Infant Loss Awareness Day. The purpose is to raise awareness about the often-untold stories of infant loss.
Angel Gowns of Western New York is one of several nonprofits dedicated to helping grieving parents in their darkest hour. Mary and Tom Callea are sharing their story to keep their daughter’s memory alive.
In 2018, just nine days before Christmas, doctors told Mary and Tom their daughter Cecilia Rose would be stillborn. Mary was 35 weeks pregnant. “I think you kind of acclimate to the news and shock to the trauma you’re experiencing.”
It’s parents like Tom and Mary Callea that Angel Gowns of Western New York aims to help. The nonprofit takes old, donated wedding gowns and repurposes them into small Christening or burial gowns and suits for babies who don’t survive.
“I have done over 500 wedding gowns and I’ve turned them into 4,700 angel gowns,” said volunteer seamstress Terry O. Michalek.
Michalek has been volunteering for the organization since 2014. Her “why” is simple.
“We feel like every little girl should look like a princess and every little boy should look like a prince,” she explained.
Angel Gowns doesn’t receive any government funding. It relies entirely on community donations.
“We’ve sent angel gowns to all 50 states and 10 different countries on six different continents,” said Angel Gowns WNY Operations V.P. Emily Doring.
Doring said they prioritize the Buffalo-Niagara region. They regularly stock area hospitals and funeral homes with angel gowns. Doring said they don’t usually know who gets one or why. It’s typically handled between the bereaved parents and hospital staff.
Tom and Mary Callea christened Cecilia Rose in an angel gown. Mary said it meant they didn’t have to leave the hospital to find something for their daughter to wear. “That window is so small that you’re going to get with them. So, it’s so special,” said Mary.
Angel Gowns of Western New York is hosting a wedding gown donation drive on Dec. 2.
- Send a current (out of any boxes or bags) picture of the front and back of your gown to email@example.com.
- They accept white or ivory wedding gowns only. No christening, flower girl, prom, or mother-of dresses.
- They are unable to accept gowns that are:
- heavily soiled/discolored
- stretch/knit fabrics
- heavily beaded
- older than 1980’s
- smell like smoke
- have large “cutouts” on the train
- excessive tulle or ruffles
They will respond to your email with drop-off information if it can be accepted. They will also give an explanation if it’s being politely declined.
Ali Touhey is an anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2023. View more of her work here.