Lillian Johnson enjoys jumping on a trampoline, playing the trombone, and competing in engineering challenges with her Destination Imagination team. But she’s also one of Sleep Tight Kids’ most dedicated volunteers.
“I’ve always loved hanging out with children, and it makes me sad that there are kids who can’t get something new,” she says.
The middle schooler was first drawn to Sleep Tight Kids as she began looking for her Mitzvah project, an undertaking made in preparation for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, usually charitable in nature. Lillian knew she wanted her project to have to do with helping children, and her mother, Laurie, suggested Sleep Tight Kids. Lillian learned about the work the organization does, providing newly purchased items of comfort for children in need. “It seemed like a really good idea,” she says. “I wanted to help with that.”
Lillian began attending Circle of Hope meetings nearly a year ago. For the Eliada Home holiday gift-giving event last December she accompanied other volunteers to the Carter’s Outlet and picked out the pajamas that would be given away—“everything that was most adorable,” as she puts it.
The Eliada experience was particularly affecting. “These kids didn’t have happy backgrounds, and then they would get all this new stuff,” like stuffed animals, blankets, and dental kits, in addition to the pajamas. “They were all really happy—surprised, grateful. And it made me happy.”
Now Lillian is lending her talents and work ethic to the second annual Sleep Tight Kids summer fundraiser event, Carnival Day, set for August 13 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Highland Brewing Company. “Before we go to the meetings I try to think of cool stuff, like games, we could do with the fundraiser,” Lillian describes. “I attempted to get Dollywood season passes [for a raffle prize] when we had a field trip there.” (She wasn’t successful, but her initiative in making the ask is an experience she can build on.)
On Carnival Day itself, Lillian will man a lemonade stand that she and her father are building by hand, tapping into her structural engineering skills. In keeping with the big top style, snacks include Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, and Asheville band The Business will strike a festive tone. Attendees can win raffle prizes from the likes of Spicer Greene Jewelers, the Little Gym, and Zaniac, and more.
At her Bat Mitzvah in June, Lillian spoke about what Sleep Tight Kids means for her. “Sadly, there are a lot of children who live in unstable environments and are suddenly removed from their homes. These kids have almost nothing and are very scared. When these kids are given their brand new pajamas and stuffed animal from Sleep Tight Kids, it gives them comfort and helps to make a bad situation a little better.”