Have you ever noticed that certain mainstays of your daily life can exist in the background of your consciousness indefinitely, and then suddenly jump into the foreground, unable to retreat back to the unseen once they are observed?
My five year old son has always enjoyed a warm and cozy existence with beautiful bedding, plenty of plush toys to cuddle with, and enough story books to fill the children's section of a local library. Items like fuzzy security blankets (or "blankies" as he calls them), teddy bears, movies, books, and a gazillion other toys and personal effects fill his bedroom and playroom. Needless to say, he enjoys a safe and loving environment. Though I am continuously pointing things out to him like, "We need to buy toys for children at Christmas and Hannukah-time who don't have toys of their own," or "Do not throw out that bottle of water! Do you know that a billion people on this planet would kill for a bottle of clean drinking water (thank you Matt Damon)?!" I want my son to be cognizant of these things, and I especially like it when he participates in my giving quests during the holiday season. I want my charity work to be branded and burned into his psyche, frankly, so that when he comes of age he will feel compelled to make giving back a part of his regular routine.
Last year we made a trip to our local Target together, loaded up a shopping cart filled with toy cars, super hero action figures and Barbie's and brought then to a local Long Island-based non-profit organization that provides kids in need with Christmas and Hannukah gifts. But, and this is a big BUT, I never stopped to think about all of the children existing day-to-day without the things that make a child feel like a child - innocent, protected, secure, special. We, myself included, had taken for granted the notion that every child has that special security blanket, that one stuffed toy and that favorite story book to call their own. It wasn't until sitting in a doctor's office waiting room this past summer, for way too long, that I randomly picked up one of the scattered Mommy magazines on the coffee table in front of me and flipped to an article about Kendra Stitt Robins, founder of the non-profit organization, Project Night Night. The very first sentence of Project Night Night's mission statement says it all:
"Project Night Night donates over 25,000 Night Night Packages each year, free of charge, to homeless children who need our childhood essentials to feel secure, cozy, ready to learn, and significant."
As I read the article profiling Kendra's work and her purpose for Project Night Night, my mind instantly made the connection as I pictured my nightly bedtime routine with my son. I tuck him into his fleece comforter, place his favorite teddy bear and stuffed Spider-Man toy next to him and then proceed to choose a book from a collection of classic bedtime stories in his bookcase to help him drift off to dreamland. "Oh my God! Every child deserves this! Every. Single. One. No exceptions.
But sadly there are exceptions, and that broke my heart in half. I typed Project Night Night's information from the article into my phone, vowing to get in touch with them the following day. I was on a mission to be of service to this cause (and still am). That was in August.
Fast forward to November and I just dropped off my first bunch of filled Project Night Night tote bags to SCO Family Services, an organization based in my area of Long Island, New York. SCO Family Services provides many valuable resources to homeless families throughout Long Island. When I dropped off the bags which were brimming with stuffed toys, blankets, books and marble composition notebooks with Number 2 pencils, I hoped and prayed that this contribution would brighten someone's day. Perhaps a newborn baby who didn't have a security blanket and stuffed animal to call their own; a preschooler or kindergartner who now has a book to read and a notebook to write in. I hoped it would also let their mothers know that people care about them and their children. Perhaps it would be one more thing that would raise morale and motivate a mother or two to dare to envision a brighter tomorrow for her family.
I am happy and grateful for the vast network of giving that Project Night Night oversees in conjunction with shelters throughout the United States. I am also grateful for their introduction to SCO Family Services which not only provides safe shelter for families in need, but also aims to bolster these families through their various programs like Early Childhood Education, Nurse Family Partnership, Baby and Me, The Parent-Child Home Program and much more.