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Pajama Program warms kids' heads, hearts for the holidays

Kids wearing pajamas and holding up books
The Pajama Program provides warm clothes and books to children in need.

Unwrapping a pair of cozy pajamas is a beloved Christmas tradition in many families. But for children in homeless shelters and impoverished neighborhoods, pajamas are often an impossible luxury.

It's not unusual for these children to spend the holiday season sleeping in their regular winter clothes just to stay warm.

That's why Patty Gillespie, president of the local chapter of the Pajama Program, has made it her mission to ensure no child has to go to bed in jeans and a sweatshirt. With the help of a $1,000 grant from the Millennium Fund, the Pajama Program is giving local children a brand new pair of warm pajamas this holiday season.

"For children who come from broken homes or are waiting to be adopted, pajamas are much more than something to sleep in," Gillespie said. "Pajamas give these children comfort and love – like a hug at bedtime."

The Pajama Program partners with area agencies to distribute pajamas and books to kids of all ages. Many of the children have never owned a book. For them, the program helps spark a love for reading. For younger children, it gives their parents the chance to tuck them in at night with a story.

"We take it for granted, but these kids don't have that," Patty said. "The gift of a new book is a simple gesture that gives children the hope for a better tomorrow."

This year, the Pajama Program is teaming up with the Akron Urban League to give children in need a memorable holiday celebration.

At the Urban League's annual Dining with Santa event on Dec. 15, nearly 400 kids will enjoy a hot breakfast, visits with Santa Claus, face painting and other fun activities. Each of them will receive two special gifts: a new pair of pajamas and a book. A $500 Millennium Fund grant will help make the celebration possible.

"Many times, the gifts the children receive here are the only ones they'll receive during the holiday season," said Donna Sadler, vice president of programs at the Urban League. "Meeting Santa puts a big smile on their face. It's very exciting."

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