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This group is donating wedding gowns to front line health care workers

Nicole Harris, a registered nurse, wearing her new wedding dress. By Alaa Elassar, CNN

(CNN) -- A nonprofit organization is helping health care workers treating coronavirus patients have the wedding of their dreams by providing them with free wedding gowns.

Brides Across America has been gifting wedding dresses and even weddings to members of the military and first responders for more than 10 years. But in May, the Massachusetts-based organization launched an initiative to expand its reach to health care workers.

"When the pandemic started, we noticed all the doctors and nurses and other health care workers giving up so much of their time to support our communities so we wanted to include them in our mission," founder Heidi Janson told CNN.

So far, the group has given wedding dresses to more than 150 health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

Nicole Harris, one of the recipients, is a registered nurse at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth. She has been working with Covid-19 patients since March. On Friday, Harris attended an event with Brides Across America to choose her wedding dress.

"Working during the Covid-19 pandemic has been a roller coaster of emotions, but I am grateful that I was able to make a difference in my patients' lives, much like Brides Across America made a difference in mine," Harris, 26, told CNN.

While other brides-to-be excitedly plan their dream weddings, Harris has spent long hours in hospital rooms caring for patients and doing her best not to contract the virus herself. It's left her with little time to prepare for the big day next August.

Harris described planning a wedding while responding to the pandemic as physically and mentally exhausting.

"The stress of the pandemic has added to the stress of planning a wedding in that lots of places are restricted hours and vendors are not operating as normal. This free wedding dress has helped out tremendously as now I can use the money towards other aspects of the wedding."

Brides Across America hosts fitting events throughout the United States. Health care workers attend with rings on their fingers and -- after lots of laughs and even some tears -- leave with gowns on their arms.

Janson said it's her organization's way of giving back.

"To be able to give back to them in such an intimate way, especially since weddings are moments people dream about, is just a beautiful experience," Janson said. "This is just to show them that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It's a timeless moment for them to remember forever."

Since its founding in 2008, Brides Across America has gifted 26,000 wedding gowns and 24 weddings.

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