Comfort for the smallest of angels

CINDY RIGNELL (left) gave Mina Atkins her old wedding dress — as well as her mother’s — and Atkins turned them into six burial gowns that Rignell donated to Sanford’s Children’s Hospital.

Mina Atkins uses her talent  with needle and thread to help parents who lose infants

By Per Peterson

Few things satisfy Mina Atkins more than when she has a needle and thread in her hands when she’s sewing or altering fabric. And even though her most special creations are poignant gifts for sad occasions, she can’t imagine not doing it.

Atkins for years has created teddy bears for people who have lost a loved one. She turns articles of clothing that were worn by the deceased into the comforting bears, giving grieving families something to physically hold onto. 

“People ask me, ‘Why do you do that?’ Oh my gosh. You cannot imagine how rewarding that is — you really feel it,” Atkins said.

But those bears are only the beginning. Atkins also recycles old wedding dresses, transforming them into smaller dresses that parents who have lost a baby can use to lay the child to rest in.

“The first one I made … I could just see that poor family standing there,” said Atkins, who can often be found doing things for others. “I can just see that mother standing there. 

What store do you go to, to buy something to bury your child in?” 

The concept of turning wedding dresses into burial outfits for babies was foreign to Atkins before Bri Bruder asked if she could turn her wedding dress into a burial outfit. Bruder knew Atkins through her grandmother and had Atkins do small sewing jobs for her. Atkins first created a bear out of Bruder’s prom dress. Bruder also needed to figure out what to do with her wedding dress since it, like her prom dress, was only taking up closet space at her grandmother’s house. She saw a Facebook post that told of women who gave up their old wedding dresses to help parents who lost a baby.

After seeing the post, Bruder contacted Atkins.

“I said, ‘Oh my goodness, they don’t need them for that!’” Atkins said. “She said, ‘Do you have a problem with doing that?’ I said, ‘No, I just wish they didn’t need them.’”

Nevertheless, Atkins went to work on Bruder’s dress, taking it apart stitch by stitch, and the exact feeling she gets when she creates her bears came over her.

“It was like, ‘Wow, here we are with the bears again,’” said Atkins, who made three dresses for Bruder. “It’s the same idea, only I wish I didn’t have to make them.” 

It took awhile, but Atkins eventually convinced herself she was doing a good thing. She began to focus more on how she was helping grieving parents than how bad she felt for them.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.