Kathleen Sharp’s personal experience with loss inspired her to give back to the Levine Children’s Hospital community. Her wedding gown now serves an incredible purpose for the families of infants who don’t make it home from the hospital.

News, Child Health | 14 days ago

Giving Back: How One Teammate Transformed her Wedding Dress Into a Special Gift for Grieving Families

Kathleen Sharp’s personal experience with loss inspired her to give back to the Levine Children’s Hospital community. Her wedding gown now serves an incredible purpose for the families of infants who don’t make it home from the hospital.

 

Kathleen Sharp, a teammate who recently joined Atrium Health, knows the pain of losing a baby. In their early years of marriage, she and her husband suffered through two miscarriages and were never able to successfully conceive. Several years ago, she and her family were struck with grief once again when Kathleen’s nephew was stillborn. That’s why, when she found out about Angel Gowns, she was determined to find a way to participate.

Angel Gowns are donated wedding dresses that are remade into tiny baby burial gowns small enough to fit premature or newborn babies. These gowns also allow families to give their child a baptism or take pictures, so that they have a lasting, beautiful image of their child. 

Kathleen was married in 1981, and since then her gown has been boxed and stored everywhere— attics, garages, and basements.

“My thought was, why have this dress lying in a box under a bed when it could be bringing dignity and a sign of caring to families?” says Kathleen.

She knew she had her gown long enough—it was time to transform it into a very important gift.

A New Purpose

Kathleen doesn’t sew, so she reached out to a sewing circle near her home in Lancaster, S.C. – just 20 miles south of Charlotte. Her biggest concern was that the material of her dress would be too rough for the babies’ delicate skin. But the community had her back. One of the group’s seamstresses, in particular, was confident in her ability to transform the wedding dress. And she succeeded.

Dana Sanford, the director of maternity at Pineville, said that these were some of the most well-made angel gowns she had ever seen.

“This is just what we do,” Kathleen says. “We care for our communities, we care for these families. If you understand the depth of this loss, you can’t help but have compassion.”

The support from the community to Levine Children’s Hospital has not gone unnoticed.  Melissa Tyo, an NICU bereavement nurse at LCH, has firsthand experience with grieving families of newborns and stillborn babies. When she heard about Kathleen’s donation and the team effort to provide the Angel Gowns, Melissa’s first reaction was one of intense gratitude. “I felt very supported by the people in our community,” she says. “I’m very proud that people like to stand up and help these babies and these families through times like this.”

The entire process is very emotional. For many families, the pictures of their baby in their Angel Gown are the final images of their child, and the gowns provide a priceless source of comfort. “If I’m touched,” Melissa says, “you can just imagine how the families felt.”

A Bittersweet Gift

So far, Kathleen’s dress has yielded 12 angel gowns, and has enough material to provide 12 more. The dress that she wore on one special day has provided so much more value in its life, allowing Kathleen to give back to the hospital that has meant so much to her in her time as a teammate.

Kathleen Sharp’s personal experience with loss inspired her to give back to the Levine Children’s Hospital community. Her wedding gown now serves an incredible purpose for the families of infants who don’t make it home from the hospital.

And giving back to the community, she says, is the only thing that makes sense for her to do. “That gown is a symbol of a very important milestone and transition in my life,” says Kathleen. “So, to be able to have it used to help another family in another transition that adds dignity and love and light to that moment is the least I can do.”