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One woman's devotion and unique idea is giving back to families with premature babies

Posted at 8:11 PM, Nov 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-17 22:11:14-05

MONUMENT — One Colorado Springs organization is celebrating 50 years of service to families affected by prematurity. Newborn Hope provides resources and support to families who have premature babies.

One volunteer has spent the last year and a half helping families, through Newborn Hope, in a unique way.

“I started sewing lessons when I was 12, this was when classes were two dollars,” Sutherland said.

Irene Sutherland is a professional seamstress. She has spent hours stitching together her craft.

“I spent many years sewing stripes because my husband was in the Air Force, so I did hems and stripes for a long time,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland worked for many years as a seamstress. She also just about anything that needed to be fixed around her home including her husband's uniform and her children's clothes. Sutherland said she always wanted to be a designer and with her new niche, she is able to show her creativity.

Around six years ago Sutherland was approached by a friend who wanted Sutherland to turn a wedding dress into small angle gowns for babies. Sutherland made this her new craft. Just over a year ago, Sutherland partnered with Newborn Hope to transform a wedding dress into small resting gowns for premature babies.

“When I see a wedding dress I go, oh I know what little gowns will be and what they will look like. It's like having a vision of what it will become and then I just create it,” Sutherland said.

Through Newborn Hope, Sutherland makes resting gowns for children in neonatal intensive care. J.J. Kaelin is the Newborn Hope Executive Adviser on the board. Kaelin said Sutherland is a true angel and extremely talented.

“Irene has been making these beautiful, beautiful little resting gowns for the babies who are not able to make it through the NICU. So their parents can have a lovely little garment for the babies to have their final days in,” Kaelin said.

The gowns are given as gifts to the families.

“It is something that provides dignity to the little baby and something for the partners to be able to see their loved one in just a gorgeous little garment,” Kaelin said.

It can be very emotional for the families and for Sutherland.

“I'll go through crying over them, praying for the family because you don't know where this is going, you don't know what little one will be wearing it,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland said despite the sadness that comes along with the resting gowns she remains devoted to continuing to provide them for families.

“It's more of a calling because it comes naturally like I say, I can look at a dress and say I know what to do with this,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland uses parts of the donated wedding dresses including lace, pearls, and beads.

“The trim, the all the ornate stuff and make it something really pretty,” Sutherland said.

She sews three different gowns sized for the babies.

“Preemie, tiny and micro,” Sutherland said. “We have the three sizes because not all sizes are preemie size, some are very small. Especially with Colorado and the high altitude and how small these little angles are,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland said could make several preemie gowns out of one wedding dress. She said it typically takes around one hour.

“When we first started Irene was receiving wedding gowns from various sources and it has really grown,” Kaelin said.

Kaelin said it is really special when people donate their wedding dresses.

“The resting gowns are coming from something that meant a lot to women, I mean it is their wedding gowns. That was a very special day for them and they are willing to donate that to something so special as this,” Kaelin said.

Starting on December 1st people will be able to drop off their wedding dresses at these UMB Bank locations;

  • 290 E Cheyenne Mtn Blvd 80906
  • 730 Citadel Drive 80909
  • 101 N Cascade Ave 80903
  • 502 Security Blvd 80911

Sutherland hopes more people will donate dresses so she can continue her passion and support.
“I don't tire of it, you know it kind of energizes me and for the families, my heart goes out to them,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland dresses are given to premature babies at Children's Hospital, Saint Francis, and Parkview Hospital.

Kaelin said they hope to eventually provide the dresses to hospitals in Denver. Friday night is the Newborn Hope's biggest fundraiser as they hit their 50th anniversary milestone.

People can take part in helping families by donating to Newborn Hope.

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