It is the purpose of The Littlest Angels Gowns to provide comfort and support to grieving families that have suffered the death of a baby. It was founded in memory of Madeline Marie Erickson, who died at seven weeks of age, by her Grandparents Carlin and Mike as "The Mary Madeline Project". In May of 2017 Laura Linder was honored to take over the project and renamed it The Littlest Angels Gowns - The Madeline Marie and the Davey Mikey Project. Laura is also a loss mom whose son was born sleeping at 18 weeks gestation. In honor of all the babies before and after Madeline and Davey that have touched our lives we strive to support families from all over the nation. We are a non-profit organization that donates infant / baby burial gowns, blankets, hats, etc. to hospitals for bereaved parents. So many women have graciously donated their cherished wedding gowns to the project and volunteers give of their time, talents and love by making the baby burial gowns and blankets out of them. It is very difficult to shop for a baby burial garment when a baby dies. It is often unexpected and by providing them to hospitals families can focus on their time with the baby and to grieve. For premature babies, it is often difficult to find something small enough, and the babies are often very fragile. The baby burial gowns, wraps, and blankets are given to Neonatal Intensive Care Units for babies who die in the neonatal period. They are also given to labor and delivery units for stillbirths, and miscarriages, as well as to organizations that support the families during this difficult time.
In 2004 Laura and David had a beautiful four year old daughter. They were excitedly expecting their second child - a baby boy they planned on naming after his daddy. On Labor Day of 2004 Laura was 18 weeks gestation. Tragedy struck. Laura started bleeding. David rushed her to the hospital but there was nothing that could be done. Baby Davey was already gone. They took Laura into surgery. When she woke up they wheeled her to a regular hospital room - not a labor and delivery room. They explained that Davey had already been taken away to be "disposed of" and Laura and David never even had a chance to see or hold him. It was not the practice to comfort mothers who have miscarriages at that time. They were sent home and told to "get over it", that they could always try again. Those words hurt so much to a grieving family as they desperately wanted THIS baby. There were no resources, no one to talk to, and even friends and family not wanting to upset the family avoid speaking of it, not realizing that it is the worst thing in the world to have everyone pretend this little angel never even existed. Laura has been a seamstress all her life. She is also a portrait photographer. Laura became involved in making little gowns for hospices and even contributed to the Mary Madeline project. Her heart led her to get involved with two organizations that support families going through loss as a volunteer photographer and event volunteer. Through her work creating little gowns she became friends with Carlin and Mike who created the Mary Madeline Project after the loss of their granddaughter. It was by the grace of the angels that the timing was perfect and Laura was able to pick up and run the legacy they had started. Laura was so honored that they entrusted her to continue this work. The loss of a baby is like no other. It is not a loss of memories so much as a loss of things to come. The minute you are pregnant, you have the next years planned out. It is so unnatural to bury your baby. We know we aren’t changing the world, but for those parents on that awful day that their baby dies, maybe we are easing the pain and difficulty and letting them focus on other things. If a baby is stillborn or miscarried, the outfit or wrap is right there at the hospital and the parents can get pictures right away. Each of the unique outfits and blankets are made with love and concern for the parents who must use them. We hope you will help us continue to provide this needed service.
Her story actually began 30 years ago, on April 17 1976. Carlin (the original founder) had a stillborn twin that she named Jason. That long ago, they didn’t take pictures, or even let her see him. They came in and told her she had a stillborn son and they had “disposed” of the body. She cried for him, but everyone, including her father, said, be “Be happy that you have one live baby.” His sister Jessica was taken to the NICU, and it was touch and go for 3 months. At age 20 Jessica became pregnant. The pregnancy was going along fine when her water broke at 32 weeks on April 16, the day before her birthday. At that time she lived about an hour away. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. When she arrived Carlin and Mike were waiting for her. They able to be with her when Madeline was born. She was a beautiful baby but only weighed 3 lb. 4 oz. Because of her size she was placed on a ventilator. Everything was fine for 24 hours. Jessica called her mother and said “something is wrong with Maddie”. Carlin went straight to the hospital. As they were turning down the ventilator, Maddie wouldn’t breathe. She was also very “floppy”. She had no muscle tone. Jessica and her husband decided to have her baptized right away. She was baptized on Jessica’s birthday. The doctors decided they needed to move her to a hospital with more equipment. She was moved to the hospital where Carlin worked as a Respiratory Therapist. After many tests, they still didn’t know what was wrong with Maddie. Jessica spent every day at the hospital. Finally, after seven weeks, they told the family that her brain was no longer working. Jessica had to make the heart wrenching decision to take her little baby off the ventilator. The familiy was going to do it at 10:00 that night. They left the hospital long enough to make burial arrangements. Mike (Carlin's husband), Jessica, her husband Billy and Carlin returned to the hospital. They took Maddie off the ventilator, and to everyones surprise she didn’t die right away. She would turn very blue, quit breathing and they would all cry thinking this is it. She would then take a deep breath, like a gasp, and start breathing again. At midnight Mike left to take care of their other children. At three in the morning, Carlin left Jessi and Billy alone with Maddie for a while. At first everyone was so angry with God. They didn’t understand His plan. Jessica and her husband made this very difficult decision to take her off the ventilator. Why didn’t she die? Why did Jessica have to suffer more? As a mother, you want to take care of your children. You would do anything for them. To have to take away her breathing tube to let her die was beyond difficult. As a grandmother and grandfather, Carlin and Mike were doubly sad. Their child was hurting, and their granddaughter was dying and there was nothing anybody could do. Morning came and Maddie was still alive. Carlin asked the nurse if they could please take her home. They said yes! Carlin called her husband and he got the crib ready. Jessi and Billy were so excited to bring her car seat to the hospital, because they never thought they would use it. Even though they knew she was going home to die, they were excited. When everyone got home, Mike had her crib ready. It had her name above it and stuffed animals in it. Jessica and Billy got to feed her. They got to hold her without any tubes. Mike and Carlin's younger kids were 12, 6 and 5. They got to hold her as well. When she had a spell when she turned blue, they had them leave the room. Maddie was in a room with music, a rocking chair, and her crib with antique dolls on the shelves. It was a very peaceful death at 7:00 that night. Carlin finally understood God’s plan. Jessica was able to acquire in that night and day a lifetime of memories. She got to hold her daughter, rock her, feed her, bathe her, walk with her, all without tubes. At one point, Jessi was holding her and looking into Maddie’s face, and Maddie smiled at her. That was a true miracle, because Maddie did not have the muscle tone to smile. After she died, they got to hold her for a couple of hours. Since they didn’t know exactly what disease she had, Jessica had to let them do an autopsy. She had to know exactly what was wrong with Maddie for her future children’s sake. Mike didn’t want the funeral home to take her back to the hospital for the autopsy alone. He asked if he could carry her. They let him carry her in their car. At the hospital, they put him in a room and let him change her into a little hospital gown. Jessica wanted to save the outfit she died in. She saved everything Maddie ever wore. Jessi was too sad to go out and buy something for her to be buried in. Carlin had to do it for her. She cried the whole time she was in the store. She looked like a beautiful Angel in her coffin. Carlin went back to work at the hospital (University of Nebraska Medical Center). A nurse asked her to speak on a bereavement panel to new healthcare workers about what are the right things and the wrong thing to say to people who experience a death in the family. It was through this panel that she decided to start the Mary Madeline Project several years later. She had to quit work because of a bladder disease, asthma and pulmonary hypertension. Mike, Carlin and Jessica didn’t want another family to have to go to a newborn department of a store and have to buy an outfit to bury their baby in. Those departments by nature are full of happiness. Also, if you have a premature baby, you can’t find something small enough. Madeline died of a disease called glycogen storage disease. Both parents are carriers and they had a 1 in 4 chance of their children having the disease. Maddie had a rare form of it, and any of their children that had the disease would die. Jessica and Billy have since divorced. Jessica is remarried and they have two boys & two girls. They bring all of them great joy. Jessica’s ex-husband, has suffered another loss, a baby who died of SIDS. He has since remarried and had more children. Maddie only lived 7 weeks, but through the Mary Madeline Project started by Mike and Carlin, she has touched many lives. Carlin feels like all the babies and other deceased loved ones are being remembered as well. In 2017 she met Laura who was making gowns for hospices. They struck up a friendship and Laura agreed to take over as Carlin is dealing with some health issues and cannot keep up the demand. Carlin and Mike are still involved, and reside on the new board for The Littlest Angels Gowns.
We are currently in need of 30x30 and 40x40 size blankets. Knit, Crocheted, and fleece blankets with finished edges work best. Families love colors for blankets so all patterns work.
We also are in constant need of hats and booties in all sizes. If you are willing to create some we are happy to supply the yarn. Please email Laura and she can send it right out.
Talented, kind hearted Seamstress or Sewing Group? We need your help! The Littlest Angels Gowns is a non profit organization that is run 100% on donations and volunteers. So many women have generously donated their wedding gowns and our amazing volunteers make beautiful Angel Gowns from them. If you are willing we will gladly add you to our list and we can supply the gowns. We just ask that the gown is processed and angel gowns are sent back to us from the wedding gown within 3-5 months. We make garments for babies 13 weeks gestation through newborn, for boys and girls.
When a baby dies it is the most heartbreaking experience a parent could endure. The Littlest Angels Gowns attempts to ease some of the tremendous grief by providing beautiful clothing and accessories. It is a very difficult process to have to go shopping for something for your precious baby to be buried in. If the baby was premature it can be near impossible to find something that will fit, and for miscarriages the babies are often too fragile to dress so special wraps are provided for the smallest angels. Many families have been forced to look at doll clothes in search of something small enough. While we are happy that we have grown to serve hospitals and families in 43 states, we are unfortunately in constant need of supplies and craftsmanship. If you are a talented seamstress who is interested in helping us provide a beautiful garment for grieving families please contact us! We love to have knitters and crocheters as well as we also need all sizes of hats, blankets and booties. If you are not very experienced in sewing but still want to help contact us!!!
*** We happily accept your donated gowns to transform them into gowns for our angels. We prefer to have gowns that are pre-cleaned as we try to provide as sterile as possible gowns to our hospitals. See our FAQ's for more details of what we accept.
*** Laura Linder
1602 Main Street
Bellevue, NE 68005-3441
**** You may also make a cash donation to help with the purchase of tags, storage bags, yarn, patterns and other administrative needs, or send supplies (ribbons, buttons, lace, 2 Gallon size ziplock bags, 2"x4" shipping labels, etc.)
To make a newborn burial outfit, booties, hat, package it with a blanket and deliver it to hospitals costs us about $20.00 for each gown/outfit.
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1602 Main Street, Bellevue, NE 68005-3441, us
If you have an emergency or need a gown right away we can usually ship outside of Omaha within 24 hours, or make other arrangements.
Click on a file for patterns, instructions, and size charts if you are interested in creating items to support our angels.
The Wedding Gown Donation Form is for People who wish to donate a Wedding gown. Attach this form to your gown when you send it. You can also use it to donate supplies or monetary donations.
Saturday April 14th
Angel Gown Sewing Day for
The Littlest Angels Gowns
The Church of the Holy Spirit
1305 Thomas Dr. Bellevue, NE 68005
9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A huge thank you to Inspired Bride at 815 Tara Plaza, Papillion, NE 68046 who collected and donated 31 gowns to our organization on May 20th.
Thank you also to all of our volunteers from the community, HEALing Embrace of Omaha, and the Omaha Sewing Guild for creating, packaging and your donation of time to prepare so many of our precious gowns.
Please ask if you require it.
I’m interested in collecting wedding gowns or holding a wedding gown drive for The Littlest Angels Gowns. Is this possible?
We happily accept gown donations from individuals or shops as long as they gowns are in good condition and clean. All wedding gown donations must have a filled out form from our downloads area. We require the signed and printed form for purposes of inventory control and reasons related to our 501(c)3 status. We are unable to accept gowns collected that do not meet our requirements. Any gowns that are donated and unable to be used by us will be donated to other charitable organizations that can use them.
Does my wedding gown need to be cleaned before I donate it?
Yes, we request all gowns be clean for donation. If your wedding gown has any odor we ask that you have your gown cleaned before shipping to us. All gowns must be from smoke-free homes. If your wedding gown is heavily stained, unevenly yellow from age or otherwise damaged it may not be usable. It is our commitment to hospitals and bereaved families to provide clean, beautiful and high quality Angel Gown garments. Thank you for your understanding.
Do you accept other formal gowns?
We accept pale pink, pale blue and lavender bridesmaid gowns in addition to wedding gowns. We do not accept any other colors or any other type of formal gowns or formal wear at this time. Thank you for your understanding.
Is the donation of a wedding gown or bridesmaid gown a charitable donation?
The Littlest Angels Gowns is a 501(c)3 non profit organization and donations made to us are tax deductible. We cannot value your donation, but we will send you a tax acknowledgement letter via email (be sure to include it in your donation box) once we have received your donated wedding gown or bridesmaid gown if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your dress and we will send you a letter via regular postal mail.
Can I request Angel Gown® garments made from my wedding gown be sent to a specific hospital?
We provide Angel Gown garments to any hospital that requests them; however, we cannot guarantee placement of specific Angel Gown garments at specific hospitals. However you are welcome to note any specific hospital in need and we will do our best to make sure they receive a package of our gowns.
What kind of wedding gowns do you accept?
We accept all wedding gowns that are clean and in good condition. We also accept bridesmaid gowns that are pale pink, pale blue and lavender. These are the only colors for bridesmaid gowns that we accept. Thank you for your understanding.
Does The Littlest Angels Gowns charge bereaved families or hospitals for Angel Gown garments?
It is an honor for us to provide the gift of our Angel Gown garments to any bereaved family or hospital requesting them at no cost.
How long will it take for my dress to be turned into an Angel Gown garment?
It can take several months for a wedding gown to be processed and put into the hands of our volunteer seamstresses to be made into Angel Gown garments. Once we receive the garments back from our seamstresses we then quality control check them, package them and ship them to families and hospitals across the US. This is a delicate process and one we take very seriously. Please know that we are working tirelessly to ensure that all wedding gowns and bridesmaid gowns are used as quickly as possible.
Are you willing to take pictures of the gowns that are made from my dress?
The process of constructing Angel Gown garments is a complex one. Often times several wedding gowns are used together to create a one of a kind garment. Because of this we cannot guarantee photographs of completed Angel Gown garments to wedding gown donors.
I would like a keepsake piece of my wedding gown – what do I do?
If you would like a keepsake piece from your wedding gown you should remove whatever portion of your wedding gown that you would like to keep before sending your gown to us. Please note that due to the high volume of donated gowns received we are not able to offer this service after we receive your donated gown.
How will I know when you have received my wedding gown?
Due to the high volume of donated gowns we handle on a weekly basis we cannot personally confirm with each donor when a gown is received. If you would like confirmation that we have received your gown please purchase tracking with your shipper so that you receive delivery confirmation from them.
How should I package my gown for shipping?
We recommend and request that you package your gown in the smallest box possible. Please do not ship your wedding gown in a preservation box as it is extremely costly for you to do so. We suggest that you remove your gown from large boxes, remove all crinoline from the underskirt of your gown and then simply fold and place your gown neatly in as small a shipping box as possible.
What happens if I send my wedding gown and it cannot be used?
If your wedding gown is shipped to us and does not meet the above criteria and we are unable to utilize it for our garments we will donate it to another organization that can utilize it.
I donated my wedding dress and shipped it to one of your seamstresses. I have changed my mind and would like my wedding gown back. What do I do?
We are unable to return donated wedding gowns. We know that making the decision to donate your wedding gown is one that can be very difficult. We encourage donors to take time to thoughtfully consider the donation before making it. Preparation of the wedding gown for use begins immediately upon receipt. Removal of underskirts, lining and crinoline are done as soon as the gown is received, donation forms are taken from the shipping box and processed and the gown is prepared for use. Once placed with a seamstress the gown is cleaned and further deconstructed. We encourage those interested in donating their gowns to thoroughly consider this donation before proceeding as we are unable to return wedding gowns that we receive.
I am ready to donate. How do I do this?
You are welcome to drop off your gown to 1602 Main St. Bellevue, NE 68005. If no one is home please leave it on the porch with your donation form enclosed. You may also mail the gown. Please put it in the smallest box possible. (We ask you don't send it in the large preservation boxes)
At this time this is our only drop off. We have several bridal stores that often partner to assist us, however with prom and wedding season beginning they do not have the space.
If you would be willing to accept donations for us please contact us so we can add you as a drop off point. Thank you for understanding!