Marie Hayden and her daughter

Marie Hayden and her daughter

Dresses made for angels

Donations of bridal, grad and bridesmaid gowns are transformed into a gift for bereaved parents

In her pre and post-natal fitness classes, Marie Hayden works with clients who are celebrating one of the happiest times in their lives.

But the owner of Hayden Fitness also knows that pregnancy doesn’t always end in joy.

When she discovered Angel Dresses, she knew she wanted to help.

B.C. Angel Dresses takes donated wedding and formal gowns and with the help of volunteer seamstresses turns them into a tiny dress or outfit for a baby who has died.

Hayden found out about the organization in a round-about way.

“I was in the middle of Dancing with the Vernon Stars and was looking for a dress to wear for our routine and the person who gave it to me said if I couldn’t use it, it could be donated to Angel Dresses,” said Hayden. “I said, ‘tell me more’ and then I went on Facebook and learned more and that piqued my curiosity.

“I looked around and realized nobody in the Okanagan was doing this so I asked how I could get involved and we are now a collector location for the dresses (for the southern Interior).”

Angel Dresses was founded by Becky Panter in Saskatchewan following the stillbirth of her son, Christopher.

With its motto, “No foot is too small that it cannot leave an imprint on the world,” the Angel Dresses movement has since expanded across the country, and Hayden has volunteered to be the local representative for B.C. Angel Dresses, which has its head office in Pitt Meadows.

Angel Dresses are designed to provide comfort to families by providing a beautiful gown or outfit for their final goodbye or however they choose to use it. Its founders believe that “there is no greater gift that can be given to a grieving family than affirming the importance of the life of their child by offering this simple gift.”

Sewn by volunteer seamstresses, donated dresses are used to create gowns and outfits for families grieving the death of their child, and are provided free of charge to families across B.C.

Each dress or outfit is packed with a “Wrapped in Love” leaflet printed with the words, “In honour of your precious child we’ve sewn this little gown, with caring hands and loving hearts so comfort might be found. Knowing it is given to a baby who has died, we’ve stitched each seam with tender care and tucked much love inside.”

For Hayden, a mother of two daughters, it’s a way to honour the women who are her clients, who in addition to private training, can take classes in everything from Blossoming Belly Pilates to Mom & Me Yoga.

“We have these two great niches here, with pre and post-natal and everyone has been very supportive and we’ve had lots of dresses dropped off,” she said. “And we’re connected with Vernon Jubilee Hospital as well as local midwives and doulas to make them aware of this program.”

The struggle now, said Hayden, is finding enough volunteer seamstresses to transform bridal and formal gown into tiny dresses and outfits.

She has connected with the Canterbury Crafters at Canterbury Court in Vernon who have donated their time and skills to make these dresses to be given to bereaved parents.

The dresses that have been made so far are exquisite. Hayden opens boxes and peels back tissue paper to reveal tiny dresses with beautiful details such as lace and miniature pearls.

“The detail is second to none and the volunteer seamstresses were very happy to be a part of this and for me, it’s been a great way to give back.”

Completed dresses can be shipped to hospitals around the province, at no charge to parents.

“People can connect on the web site or Facebook and let us know where they are and we will get a dress to them.”

Gowns of any colour can be donated by dropping them off at Hayden Fitness, #201, 2500-53rd Ave. It’s also where volunteer seamstresses can pick up the gowns for transforming into Angel Dresses.

For more information about Angel Dresses, call Hayden at 250-306-7474,  see or see the B.C. Angel Dresses page on Facebook.

The Facebook page also contains patterns for dresses and other outfits.