Years ago, a woman named Genevieve Piturro began doing volunteer work that wouldn't just alter the course of her life, it would also have a life-changing impact on countless children throughout the country. And it all began with some kids' pajamas.
Always an avid reader, Genevieve felt compelled to focus her new volunteer work on sharing her love of books with children. The then-38-year-old working professional only had free time after work, so she decided to spend her evenings reading to kids in homeless shelters, foster care facilities and organizations for abused, neglected and needy youth. Genevieve's story could have ended there, but what she noticed happening after those nighttime readings is what soon sparked her life-changing idea.
"When I was reading to the kids and we were finished... the staff would say, 'Time to go to bed,'" Genevieve told Oprah during a 2007 "Oprah Show" interview. "And they didn't have anything to change into."
Seeing those children climb into their beds without any pajamas to sleep in made Genevieve feel gutted. "I said to one of the staff people, 'Next time, can I bring pajamas?' And she said, 'That would be great. Nobody thinks of that; nobody gives pajamas,'" Genevieve said.
The staff gave Genevieve information about the number of children and their sizes for her next visit, and she returned armed with 12 pairs of PJs. Some of the children were completely unfamiliar with the idea of bedclothes -- one little girl quietly asked, 'What are these?' -- but it soon became clear that Genevieve had found a significant need that had to be filled. Her Pajama Program was born.
Over the next five years, Genevieve and her Pajama Program collected 85,000 pairs of PJs for children in need. Then, during her "Oprah Show" interview, Genevieve received a big surprise of her own: Oprah and the show producers had coordinated with audience members prior to the taping and challenged each person bring as many pajamas as they could to donate to Genevieve's organization. That final count totaled 32,046 pairs.
"Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra" recently caught up with Genevieve to find out what happened to all of those pajamas after the show. As she says in the above video, those 32,000 PJs sparked a multiplier effect that left Genevieve in awe.
"Hours after the show, thousands and thousands of our children in group homes and shelters received boxes of pajamas and books, thanks to the generosity of everyone who watched, everyone who was in the audience and the whole 'Oprah' team," Genevieve says.
That generosity also went global.
"We received thousands of emails from people who saw the show not only in the U.S., but everywhere around the world -- even soldiers on army bases were calling and saying, 'How can we help?'" Genevieve says.
All that help has continued over the years, and Pajama Program has since touched the lives of millions of children everywhere. For them, it offers so much more than just a pair of clothes to sleep in.
"Our total is now over 3 million pajamas to children in need," Genevieve says. "A new pair of pajamas, a pretty book to look through -- we hope and pray it just puts their fears aside for a few minutes and lets them dream again."
For more from "Oprah: Where Are They Now?", visit wherearetheynow.buzz.
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