Sunday, October 11, 2009

Anyone can help a kid have 'A Better Bedtime'

A few years ago a moms’ group I belonged to on the internet hosted an autumnal meet-up. In preparing for the fall event some mothers traveled across country to attend, one member thought it might be cute to dress our kids all up in the same pajamas.

A brand and design was located and decided upon — red and blue robots over a heather-gray fabric — and each mother started the hunt to procure just the right size for their kids. Our fingers drummed keyboards and fingered through displays in the brick-and-mortar stores. When we found, what turned out to be the slightly elusive design, we just plunked down our money not worrying about the size. Someone in our group will want them.

But it never occurred to me that any one else would.

Truth be told, I kind of thought they were ugly. Truthier be told, I have to admit, my kids sometimes sleep in their clothes. There are times they go to bed without books being read to them.

Such is motherhood.

There comes a point when we wonder just what good comes of having that battle; the one in which we find ourselves physically removing the ground-in-dirt and toothpaste-stained t-shirts while our kids scream NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

So we just don’t fight it.

No one has died from wearing a grubby monkey t-shirt for three days, right? We’ll read four books tomorrow.

Mommy’s tired.

Again … we take such necessities for granted.

There are children most of us never think about, who wear dirty, ill-fitting clothes day and night because they don’t have mothers to clean, mend or replace them.

Some don’t even know there is a difference between street clothes and sleepwear.

Some have never even been kissed on the forehead and wished “good night.”

“If you’re a mother you can imagine what that’s like,” says Genevieve Piturro, the founder and executive director of Pajama Program, a not-for-profit children’s charity with a mission to provide new, warm sleepwear and new books to children in need nationwide.

Piturro, however, is not a mother. A decade ago, she was a single, corporate marketing professional who described herself as a workaholic.

“I really felt what was missing in my life were children,” says Piturro. With the encouragement of her husband, she decided to volunteer at a local shelter reading to children.

“The first night, after I had read, I turned back to see the children ushered into a room for bed. They had nothing. They were all huddled together. They were scared. It just seemed all wrong.

“After that I asked the staff if I could bring pajamas, and I went out and bought 12 pair. The next time I read, I gave out the pajamas. One by one everyone took a pair. One little girl just stared at them. She asked me, ‘what are these’?”

That’s when she decided she had to do more.

Piturro realized these kids, who were all entering the foster care system, were in a kind of limbo. “Every two seconds another child enters the U.S. foster care system. Many of these kids never had anyone to care for them. When they get taken from abusive or neglectful homes and transferred to new placements, they are also taken out of school. They are afraid and alone. They have nothing.”

So she kept bringing pajamas and books, and soon more and more people got involved.

“It just kept growing,” said Piturro, who says Pajama Program has 70 chapters around the country and has given out more than 400,000 pairs of pajamas since her initial dozen. By year’s end, she expects Pajama Program’s distribution to hit the half-a-million mark.

To make this happen, this month the organization has launched its 2010 fundraising campaign, “A Better Bedtime.”

The campaign’s aim is to bring awareness to the need for warm sleepwear during the “Danger Season,” the block of months between October and March when temperatures plummet.

“We need all sizes, from infant to aged 17,” says Piturro, explaining that until a child reaches 18 they are still wards of the state.

Visitors of are shown how to host pajama and book drives, as well participate in a more personal way by connecting with Pajama Program’s Facebook page and sharing their favorite bedtime memories and photographs.

“Donations of money are always appreciated as we have relationships with manufacturers and publishers that allow us to buy so much more with our money … But we know people like to go an shop, and that’s OK, too.”


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Christina said...

What a beautiful write-up! My business, Just Between Friends of North Tampa, has just teamed up with our local chapter of Pajama Program for a pj and book drive at our upcoming event (and hopefully many future events to come). The program is just so beautiful and touching in its' simplicity. Might I encourage anyone reading this to consider how they might help hold a pj and book drive. It's so simple, yet can make such a difference for a child!

Alex said...

I saw her on Oprah a few years back. Great concept. You forget that the simple things in life sometimes mean so much.