The moment Susan Mahan saw little Miabella Dantin in her handmade hospital gown and the smile it put on the one-year-old’s face, she knew this wasn’t going to be a one-time project.
“If I can do something to make a child smile … I’m doing it,” said the Des Allemands seamstress. “It was precious.”
Instead of the white or drab gowns typical to hospitals, the youngster was wearing a pink gown, and it was certainly important for a child who has been spending a lot of time at a hospital. From birth, the youngster has endured a multitude of medical issues and surgeries, and her mother asked Mahan if she could make a cheerful gown for her baby.
She jumped right on it and, when she saw what it did for little Miabella, decided to make more gowns for other children.
With a little help from her friends and neighbors, Mahan plans on donating 20 of them to Ochsner’s Hospital for Children.
“I think it’s important because they’re in a place they’re not familiar with – the hospital,” she said of why the cheerful gowns make a difference. “Second, I think it adds more color and brightens to their spirit to not see a solid white or drab color.”
She announced her project on her Facebook page and asked for donations of fabric and thread.
She’s working on a gown with a dinosaur that also bears each one’s name, but there are many more designs that include polka dots, kangaroos and crocodiles, multicolor stripes, pink geometric patterns, and giraffes. While she started making them for girls, Mahan said a boy could certainly wear her gowns with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Saints emblem, and flannel with trains or hand and foot prints, and John Deere tractors.
When she got the request, Mahan went to her mother’s patterns, whom was also a seamstress. She just grabbed her mother’s baby gown pattern and made some modifications, such as making it open from the back.
“We put a little bit here and a little bit there, and we cut out the pattern for it,” she said.
After she made the gown, Mia’s mother, Jodi Dantin, also of Des Allemands, offered to pay to make more of them for the hospital.
Mahan agreed, but refused to take money for work that thrilled her.
Her daughter, who works with the hospital’s fundraising branch, talked to the person in charge of donations and got the project rolling.
From there, Mahan’s Facebook call for fabric and thread was already being answered.
When a neighbor donated seven pieces of fabric, she knew the project was happening. And this same neighbor said she was coming back with more, as well as others who have made donations.
Mahan’s making the gowns for youngsters six to nine months old, 12 months old and then for three- and four-year-olds.
“It’s awesome,” Mahan said of the donations.
“If I can do something to make a child smile … I’m doing it.” – Susan Mahan
She is buying fabric, too.
Her latest gown has dinosaurs, but her favorites include the Saints gown and chevron pattern, as well as the one with hand and foot prints.
Frankly, she loves them all, but Mahan especially appreciates how they cheer up youngsters.
“When I saw how cute they were coming out, I thought, ‘My God, I’ve got to keep doing this.’”