As the nation celebrates the brave veterans who have served our country tomorrow, it’s also important to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the loved ones of these troops. Although they never went to war, these people in their own served by holding down the home front through difficult times of separation.
To that end, a national charity with local roots is working to help servicemen and women and their loved ones with their weddings.
Heidi Janson of North Andover has given away more than 10,000 gowns to military brides since founding her charity, Brides Across America, in 2008. This Thursday, Janson will add to that number as she hosts an Operation Wedding Gown giveaway at Tulle, the bridal salon that she owns in Georgetown. The event is at 11 a.m. Qualified brides should register ahead of time.
Janson says that her huge effort started with a simple desire: “I wanted to say thank you,” she said. “I wanted to do something to give back and make a difference.”
Janson was inspired when she heard a story on NPR about soldiers in Afghanistan who felt forgotten. She knew that she wanted to do something to help those who are serving our country, so she turned to what she knows best: the wedding industry. She hosted an event where she gave away 60 gowns at her boutique, which was located in New Hampshire at the time. The brides were thrilled and the bridal community was eager to get involved.
“Many of my friends in the industry were looking for ways to host events in their towns and they asked me to organize them,” she said. “We started it really small and here we are.”
Brides Across America provides gowns to women who are engaged or have had a civil ceremony and are planning a wedding in the next 18 months. The bride or her fiance must have been deployed within the past five years, or have an upcoming deployment. The only cost to the bride is a $20 registration fee.