Brides Across America gifts wedding dresses to service, first … – Eagle-Tribune

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ANDOVER — Satin, tulle, beads and sequins along with ballgowns and A-line silhouettes were some of the many options for military families, first responders and COVID health care workers treated to free wedding dresses on Thursday during Brides Across America’s annual gifting event at Tulle Bridal.

The national nonprofit operates its hub locally and has gifted more than 26,000 dresses throughout the country to these families and first responders through various partner shops since 2008 when it was founded by CEO Heidi Janson.

The organization holds “Operation Wedding Gown” twice a year to help these brides find their perfect dress and take some of the stress and financial burden away from planning their big days. Nine other Brides Across America events took place across the states in partnership with bridal salons.

This was the organization’s first gifting event since devastating floods in August wrecked havoc to its warehouse in North Andover.

It continues to rebuild the warehouse and waits to be able to store new donations anticipated from Vera Wang and Neiman Marcus. Events like this help create some normalcy in returning to operations and reminds Janson of their mission to support the troops and first responders and offer gratitude to them.

“It’s nice to give back,” Janson said. “They deserve the experience like every other bride.”

Janson and the Brides Across America team catered to the brides every needs during the event, conducting brief interviews to get to know them and best select gowns for them to try on.

Team members Ella Cammarata and Julia Vachon were on hand to help the brides, along with Janson’s daughter Haylei Coolican and Janson’s mother, Terry Brumley, who is the nonprofit’s director.

“It helps take away some of the burden and stress for these brides and put smiles on their faces,” Terry Brumley said.

During the floods, Brides Across America lost over 80% of its stock of dresses, but the brides couldn’t tell from the selection of more than 3,000 dresses in the shop on Thursday.

Brumley said the dresses at the Tulle Bridal location were in the shop during the floods.

There was something for every bride.

On one side of the room, beaded options filled the dressing room while clean, satin ballgowns adorned the hangers on the opposite end of the shop.

Alaina Gerrit of Chichester, New Hampshire, was one of the brides given the full wedding dress shopping experience.

She has been in the U.S. Armed Forces since 2011. She first served in the Air Force before switching to the Navy in 2019. Gerrit decided to marry her husband last year, uncertain of deployments and other matters. She was shopping for a wedding ceremony dress.

For her, the event had special meaning as an active military member and so close to Veterans Day.

“People say ‘thank you’ all the time for serving,” Gerrit said. “This feels like a real thank-you.”

“We deal with a lot,” she added. ”It’s really nice that someone came up with this program designated for service members.”

Coolican assisted Gerrit during her appointment, helping her find the perfect dress and adding little embellishments and alterations along the way to make the dress perfect for Gerrit.

The appointments were no different than going to a bridal salon as each bride waited for the moment where they looked in the mirror and realized they were in their dress.

Brides were able to have family members with them, or make their own decisions. Gerrit chose the latter because she didn’t want outside influence.

Katerina Lampros of Bridgewater brought her family to help with her final choice. Lampros will marry her fiancé, Andrew Bumila, who serves in the Army National Guard, next year.

“It’s priceless to be able to experience this and be a part of this organization’s family now,” she said. “What Brides Across America does is so special.”

Her mother, Paula Lampros, said it was an honor to be involved in the event because of what the organization strives to do for military families. Soon-to-be mother-in-law Mary Lou Bumila felt it helped her new family member feel that she was even more a part of the military community and appreciated.

“It means a lot to me because of how proud I am of his (Andrew Bumila’s) accomplishments,” the younger Lampros said. “I feel like I’m a part of this and I get this beautiful dress to represent his hard work.”

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