Pictured below are program coordinators, Jamie Gambuzza and Cindi Parello. Also pictured are Gingerbread Man – Ryan Daniel; Snowwoman and Coordinator – Suzanne Annette; storyteller – Jerry Andrewlavage; and students from left to right: Elyana Barroqueiro, Evan Mathesius, Layla Gonzalez and Josiah Sanni.
By Cheryl Conway
There is nothing quite as cozy as cuddling up in pajamas with a good book on a cold, wintry day. Thanks to the school community at Hudson Maxim School in Hopatcong, 111 more individuals may get to do the same.
For the past three years, the Hudson Maxim School has been participating in The Pajama Program, One Million Good Nights, partnered with Scholastic Books, Carter’s and Sprout. The goal of the program is to provide one million new pairs of pajamas and one million new books to children in need.
During the month of November 2013, 276 students at the Hudson Maxim School- grades pre-school through first – along with teachers and staff, collected 111 new pairs of pajamas and 45 new books to help needy children in the Sussex/Morris County area. Bringing in pajamas brought smiles even to the youngest givers.
When the students brought in their pajamas to donate, “You could see the big smile on their face,” says co-organizer Cindi Parello, first grade teacher at Hudson Maxim School. Or when they brought in a book, they would say “This is my favorite book.”
Parello kept one of the collection boxes in her classroom. “You can see when the box got filled, how excited they would get. Kids would be so excited and say ‘thank-you’ when students from others classes would walk into her classroom and put donations in their box. “Even three-year olds were so happy to put pajamas in the box.”
On Dec. 16, 2013, first grade academic skills teacher Jamie Gambuzza- another co-organizer, delivered the pajamas and books to the Child and Family Resources center in Mt. Arlington, which then distributed the items to the local people in need. The sizes of the pajamas were from infant to adult; and books were for readers from children to young adults.
A National program- The Pajama Program, One Million Good Nights- was founded by Genevieve Piturro of New York in 2001 “to help create a warm and nurturing environment for youngsters living under difficult circumstances. Many go to bed wearing their street clothes…or wearing nothing at all,” as stated on the website.
Carter’s Children Stores collected for the program in their shops donating more than 100,000 pairs of pajamas in 2013; and Scholastic Books also partnered in the program by donating hundreds of thousands of new children and young adult books.
Hudson Maxim School Principal Tracey Hensz says her school participates in the program annually “to support literacy and support needy families around the holidays.” She likes the idea of a pajama drive because she says “There is a little bit of comfort when you are in a pair of pajamas. Students relate comfort to warmth. Students enjoy wearing different kinds of pajamas” especially when they are so little.
Teachers agree that the program is a great fit to their youngsters.
“We’re always teaching our children about community awareness,” says Parello. “What better way then to do that by putting books in the hands of needy children. We’re always telling the kids to get comfortable and cozy up with a book. Kids love to stay in their pajamas. They love to get comfortable and read. There are some kids out there that don’t have that.”
Giving a new pair of pajamas and a good book, two things the children can relate to, “Pulls at their heart strings a little bit,” says Parello.
“It’s a great program,” continues Parello. “It supports learning and community involvement. It helps the kids make a connection with their community especially at Christmas time. It’s about giving. We’re not talking about what we’re going to get but what we’re going to give. It helps build their character.”
Suzanne Annette, first grade resource room teacher and other co-organizer, supports the program for the young students and says “it’s a great idea for them to learn that people need help. They left feeling really good that they can help out other children.”
To show appreciation to her students and reward them for their kindness, Hensz allowed the students to wear pajamas on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, and were treated to a special story-time, chocolate milk with marshmallows and a visit from a snowman and gingerbread man.
Having the story-time “was a thank-you” to the students for spending their money to donate. “What a fun way to get the community and the kids involved,” says Parello. It also supports learning and what they tell the students: to “read and share a good book.” By wearing pajamas to school and reading a book. “They just connect to it so much more.”
At the story-time, the students acted out and read “Gingerbread Man Loose in the School” and “Snowmen at Night.”
“All students gathered together, read and acted out stories,” says Parello. “They cuddled up with their friends in their pajamas.”