At 38, Genevieve Piturro was married and successful, but she felt like something was missing. She never wanted to have children of her own, but she loved children and wanted to be around them. So she started volunteering at local shelters, reading to the kids before bedtime. She was surprised by their lack of a bedtime routine. For those of us lucky enough to grow up in a home with parents, bedtime was our chance to get cozy, to slow down from the day, and to feel loved. But these kids didn’t have that comfort. They didn’t even have pajamas!
Moved to do something to help these kids, Piturro started her own aid organization: Pajama Program. The goal of the non-profit organization is to bring pajamas and bedtime books to children in need. Since 2001, they have provided more than one million pajamas and books to kids across the country. They involve volunteers to help with fundraising, and encourage people to hold their own Pajama Program fundraisers, to get involved in helping Pajama Program from their own communities.
One of the things I find particularly unique and touching about Pajama Program is the simplicity of the project. It seems so obvious that kids need cozy pajamas and bedtime stories, yet in the hustle and bustle of a shelter, beset by economic worries and staffing shortages, it makes sense that something this basic would be overlooked. It’s probably one of the many things staff members worry about but can’t provide. Going to bed in one’s clothes may seem like a small thing. We’ve all done it before. But for lonely children without parents, having an end-of-day ritual that includes soft, warm clothes just for bed provides comfort and security for those sorely in need of both. When kids have stability at bedtime they sleep better, and better sleep means healthier children.
I won’t lie: I love bedtime. Putting on my flannel pajamas helps me wind down and let go of my day. In a very real way, it makes me feel like a kid again. I think we can all take a lesson from Genevieve Piturro. Sometimes the simplest things can make a real difference in people’s lives. I’m not the only one impressed by Pajama Program. The project has been featured by Oprah, Parade, Redbook, Woman’s World, Today, and Good Morning America (to name a few). Pajama Program always needs more volunteer fundraisers and it’s easy to get involved. The project is based in New York City, so for those volunteers planning to stay domestic for a while, this is a great opportunity to help some needy children in your own backyard.