Bobby-Jo Kowalski knew it was the right thing to do at the right time.
After being through multiple losses, she knew wanted to give back to other parents who have lost a baby.
Her outlet was creating one less item parents had to worry about when suffering a loss – a dress for a final farewell.
“These are all for babies who don’t get to come home,” she explains. “The goal is to be able to offer our services to all hospitals across the province, and to co-ordinate with midwifes and funeral homes. It is my passion.”
Kowalski is the group administrator for BC Angel Dresses, a group of dedicated volunteers across the province who create dresses and wraps from donated wedding, bridesmaid and grad dresses.
“With my four losses, I didn’t make it past the ER. You leave empty-handed; (the dresses) allows for a keepsake, and it validates that your baby mattered. It’s a small piece to help the family start the grieving process.”
The dresses and wraps are made for both girls and boys, and volunteer sewers create the dress from a basic pattern, and can add embellishment and design – something that Kowalski explains is left up to whomever is creating the dress.
She estimates it takes about 40 volunteer hours to create each dress, but even someone with basic sewing skills can make a dress, or crochet a blanket.
Dresses come in a variety of sizes from extra-extra small (for those at 14 weeks gestation) to large for a full-term baby; Kowalski said they are open in the back to easily put on babies without too much manipulation.
Currently, she notes there are nearly 1,000 members in their Facebook group, and more than 100 volunteers across B.C.
“The support for donated dresses has been overwhelming. There’s a mass influx of donations, which is awesome.”
She adds the challenge is to find people to collect and store dresses, particularly in remote areas of the province.
She is also putting out the call for seamstresses and sewers. Currently, she has some volunteers in Nanaimo and Victoria, but is looking for more in the North Island and Comox Valley.
The dresses are not for sale, and Kowalski estimates the organization has donated thousands of dresses across B.C.
“That’s why we do what we do – to help families in that moment. It warms my heart.”
Kowalski says there are two ways for people to create, join or volunteer for a group: join their Facebook page (she will send a greeting to every new member) or through the group’s website: bcangeldresses.ca.
She also encourages hospitals or other organizations who would like to receive dresses, to contact her through social media. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.