Media couple cope with loss of son through Gabriel’s GownsWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As a cast member on 92.5 KISS FM’s “The Morning Rush,” and husband to 13abc newscaster Shaun Hegarty, Sara Hegarty is used to sharing intimate details of her life with the listening public. But one day last year, she was terrified about the prospect of doing so.
Just a few weeks prior, Sara and Shaun’s son Gabriel had been delivered stillborn.
“I remember directly after having him, wanting to hide in the house for as long as possible and never have to talk about what had happened publicly,” Sara said in an interview with Toledo Free Press. “I hid away for quite a while. And when I felt like I was strong enough to go back to work, I never dreaded going on air as much as I dreaded it that day.”
Now, more than a year later, Sara is sharing her story as part of a drive to help other families who went through what hers did. Throughout October, the Hegartys, along with the March of Dimes Northwest Ohio Division, are holding a drive for Gabriel’s Gowns, a project that provides burial clothes for stillborn children or babies who die shortly after birth.
The idea for the gowns, which are crafted from donated wedding dresses, was inspired by a Texas group whose YouTube account caught Sara’s eye.
“It was one of those viral videos where you just couldn’t open up Facebook or YouTube without seeing it,” she said. “And so I watched it, and I watched it a few times. And then, I went back a week later and I watched it a few more times, and I sent it to people I thought would appreciate it. And one of those people was my husband.
“At night, after the kids would go to bed, I would tell him, ‘I just wish we had something like that here. … I wish we could have it everywhere — every family deserves something that special.’ I kept talking about it and talking about it and he would just listen and look at me. And all of a sudden, it dawned on me that if I wanted it here, I was going to have to do it here.”
Sara began to discuss the idea with Dawn Lyman, the executive director of the Toledo branch of March of Dimes. (Hegarty is on the group’s board of directors.)
“She jumped on it,” Hegarty said. “She had two little boys who died at 21 weeks — twins. And so this project means just as much to her as it does to me. And she said, ‘Of course, let’s do this.’ And so over the summer, she was the one who went out and spoke to the hospitals. And it didn’t take much convincing — the hospitals were ready to go.”
Every donated dress can be crafted into 10-12 burial gowns. ProMedica and Mercy hospital systems will distribute the garments upon their completion, which Hegarty estimates will happen sometime around the new year.
Hegarty said she has been amazed at the outpouring of support, from those who have donated dresses to those who have given their time and expertise to make the gowns.
“I’ve gotten emails upon messages, and emails through Facebook and people have called me to tell me their story. Because they thought, ‘She shared with me her story. I want to tell her my story, of my child.’ Whether they lived for a few hours, or whether they died and were born sleeping, like Gabriel was, they share these very personal stories with me, and I am so honored and touched. This has been more than I ever could have expected.”
The sharing of those stories — and her own — is a big part of what makes this project so important, Hegarty said.
“I can’t remember another time in my life where it felt like Shaun and I were the only two people in the world going through this pain. And in actuality, we’re not. One out of every 160 births is stillborn. That’s one baby every 20 minutes who is born sleeping. I mean, you don’t know that — that emotional time, you think that nobody else will ever feel this pain. So I just want them to know that they’re not alone.”
Dresses can be donated at March of Dimes, 3450 W. Central Ave., Suite 352. Drop-off times are 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to noon Thursdays, or by appointment. For more information, visit gabrielsgowns.org.