Parent With A Purpose: Gracie's Gowns

By Stephanie Stewart December 21, 2016
One of my favorite things about publishing Macaroni Kid Fredericksburg is the chance to connect with other moms in our community. Often times these connections inspire me and remind me of the ability of one person to make a difference. It is with this in mind that I launch a new article series called Parent with a Purpose. My hope is to introduce you to some amazing moms and dads living right in our communities who not only are doing unique and wonderful things but also deserve to have some attention brought to their mission.

This is where YOU come in! Do you know someone who fits the Parent with a Purpose bill? Maybe it's your neighbor, friend, child's teacher - send them our way! All you have to do is email me their name, email address and why you think they're perfect for a Parent with a Purpose and I'll take it from there!

This Mom I have admired from afar on instagram and social media outlets on how unselfish she is in her pursuit of helping children with illnesses that have been hospitalized. Last week I was out and about crossing off one of the most dreaded tasks around this time of year, going to the post office. As I waited in line, trying to keep my daughter somewhat contained, my eyes were drawn to a tote that had "Gracie's Gowns" embroidered on it. I could instantly tell this Mom had a sweet, gentle, caring soul so I had to look like a crazy person and tell her I needed to speak with her. I am glad I did! Introducing our  first Parent with a Purpose, Jessica!

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What is your MISSION? What do you want to accomplish?
Our mission is to make and provide personalized hospital gowns for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Through that we are changing the face of children in the hospital setting. Kids are allowed to be who they are in a not so kid-friendly place, children can express their unique personalities...have a voice in a setting where they're told there are no choices in their medical care needs, to be who they are, rather than just a diagnosis. That's the ultimate mission behind the bring out who they are, not what they have.

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What inspired/encouraged you to start Gracie's Gowns?
      Gracie's Gowns started as a community service project that was going to provide comfier, more cheerful hospital gowns for children to local hospitals surrounding the Fredericksburg region. However, in the middle of working on them I was contacted almost daily about making gowns for specific children with a variety of complex medical needs. It was because of those requests, Gracie's Gowns shifted from being a project to the start of a nonprofit organization making personalized hospital gowns for specific children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses across the globe.

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What part does your child play in your current mission?
My children help with packaging gowns, putting on snaps (with assistance), and my oldest is starting to learn how to sew on a sewing machine because she wants to help make gowns herself one day. All of my children have also delivered gowns with me to families in the hospital as well.

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What lesson are you learning through this process?
         The biggest lessons I'm learning right now is in patience...I have big dreams, huge goals, and I want to be there right now, however learning that building the nonprofit takes time and I am no wonder woman despite the long hours I work, the many sleepless nights, and the fact I do everything that I do...I cannot force my dreams for Gracie's Gowns into happening. It takes time to do things the right way and it has to be the right time. 

I am also learning the many unmet needs of the families we serve, the issues and problems they have, but that are going unmet by organizations, insurance companies, hospitals, and the community around them. This has been the hardest lesson to learn that really it is the little things that make a difference, but those little things can cost a whole lot more than anyone would have imagined. The needs our families have - some are continuous, others are one-time things, but the cost of providing their children with what they need is far beyond their reach...and there is little help at best in order to obtain those needs. So, it is our goal to try and make those things happen over the course of time as we're able to.

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What can we do to support you and Gracie's Gowns?
          Gracie's Gowns, like every nonprofit under the sun, is in need of continuous funding. We use the funds we receive, as we receive them, but the ultimate goal would be to have a continuous flow of monetary donations that we can use regularly without having to post on social media almost weekly we're in need of (x) amount of funds just to get gowns in the mail. We need an office space that is large enough to include sewing areas for volunteers, storage, and working space. Those are the two biggest, most urgent needs right now. Of course supply donations are always needed as well, we receive around 40 requests a month and local volunteers are needed as well to sew some of the smaller projects we make from remnant pieces of fabric from gowns as those are overflowing in my living room too. There are lots of ways to help!

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If you would like more information on Gracie's Gowns,
visit their website
 or on their Facebook Page.