Blog | Sleep Tight Kids Blog

Recently, this adorable downtown Asheville boutique held an event to raise money for Sleep Tight Kids. The only thing better than shopping local is shopping local for a cause! Thank you to owner, Anna Grace, for graciously donating a portion of your proceeds to help the children of Western North Carolina.

Owner Anna K. Grace (left) with employee, Katharine Coulman (right)

If you own a business and want to learn more about how to host a similar event (or if you’d like to donate or volunteer for our cause), please contact info@sleeptightkids.org

In addition to this event, Traveling Chic also donates year-round though their “skip the bag” campaign. Customers are offered the option to skip the bag and donate $1 to a local charity of their choice.

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We have been very busy raising money and putting that money to work for the children of Western North Carolina recently. Here are a few updates on what we have been up to lately:

Giving Tuesday was a HUGE success! We raised $26,000 in a single day with a big thanks to Dennis Hulsing of Hulsing Enterprises who matched donations up to $10,000

Wendy Knowles, left, with Sleep Tight Kids founder Jill Schwarzkopf, and Dennis Hulsing and his son, Kyle at our recent Copper Crown Fundraiser on January 6.

Thanks to Copper Crown Restaurant on Tunnel Rd. in Asheville for donating a portion of their profits for Dine out for a Cause to Sleep Tight Kids.

Photos taken by Jill Schwarzkopf, during the Dine Out for a Cause event recently.

As always, we have also been busy delivering comfort bags to those in need in our community. Just this week, a total of 140 Comfort Bags were delivered to Haywood County DSS, REACH in Waynesville, The Bair Foundation in Asheville and Eliada in Asheville.

As a reminder of why we do this work, here is a recent letter from DSS in Polk County to our founder, Jill, thanking her for all the foundation does to help children.

Please follow us on Facebook and Instagram for ways to help and volunteer.

https://www.facebook.com/SleepTightKids/

https://www.instagram.com/sleeptightkids/

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Volunteering for one of our bag stuffing events is one of the easiest ways to get involved with Sleep Tight Kids. Both you and your children will really enjoy putting comfort bags together for other children in our area.

We stuffed bags recently on September 19th and then delivered all over western North Carolina the following Monday. We are always looking for more volunteers: Contact volunteer@sleeptightkids.org for more info on how you and your family can get involved!


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Local Businesses now have an easy way to become supporters of Sleep Tight Kids–Become an ambassador by following the steps below.

Recently, the following businesses have joined our ever-growing ambassador program: OP Taylors, Blossoms Creative, All State Agent Eric Morris, Classic Event Rental, Avante Beauty Lounge

Photos below from our last Ambassador Luncheon at the Wedge Brewery in Asheville:

Email info@sleeptightkids.org for more details on how to become an ambassador and start helping the children of Western North Carolina today.

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Founder, Jill Schwarzkopf, discusses the origins of Sleep Tight Kids and how it has grown over the past decade.

I had the honor of sitting down with Jill Schwarzkopf, a woman dedicated to helping the children of Western North Carolina, to discuss the humble beginnings of Sleep Tight Kids and how what started as a literal dream grew into what it is today: an organization that helps thousands of children in need in our community.

THE BEGINNING:

It truly started with a dream. Jill was working as a Kindergarten teacher at Mills River Elementary School in Henderson County, NC in 2008. A lot of children in her classroom complained to her that they were cold at night. She collected blankets for them and funds to restore heat in homes for those kids in her classroom. One night, she had a vivid dream where she was running a non-profit to help needy children and when she woke up, she decided to take immediate action and make that a reality. That first year, Sleep Tight Kids gave away around 75 comfort items and blankets to children.

SLEEP TIGHT KIDS TODAY:

Sleep Tight Kids has continued to grow since its origins in 2008 and in 2018, ten years later, over 10,000 comfort bags were given to children in need! They have also expanded from serving only Henderson County to now serving the entirety of Western North Carolina. Serving an area this large does require a lot of help from members of the community, businesses and volunteers. “We are an 100% volunteer-based network and all the money that gets donated goes directly to helping the children,” Jill explains. Sleep Tight Kids works with other local charities and government organizations to better serve the children of their community including DSS from Madison, Yancy, Henderson, Transylvania, Jackson, Buncombe, McDowell, Haywood, Rutherford, and Iredell Counties, Eblen Charity, Eliada Homes, Helpmate, Western NC Rescue Missions, ABCCM, Steadfast House, Caring from Children, Boys and Girls Club, Safelight of Hendersonville and more.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:

  • Volunteer to help with one of our bag stuffing events (including our kids helping kids events)
  • Join our Circle of Hope and get notifications about meetings and events, next meeting is Tuesday, May 14 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Asheville Racquet Club SOUTH location
  • Help with our largest fundraising event, Denim and Diamonds (scheduled for Saturday Nov. 16, 2019)
  • Donate Here
  • Have your business become a Sleep Tight Kids Ambassador
  • Become a sponsor for an upcoming Sleep Tight Kids event
  • Have a Sleep Tight Kids representative speak to your company/organization about our mission
  • Host a Sleep Tight Kids cash donation box for a month or more (great for employee lounges, check-out areas, meeting places)
  • Donate a % of business proceeds on a designated date/time frame.
  • View upcoming events here

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Lillian Johnson

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.”

 

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When the Sleep Tight Kids team arrived at Mountain Child Advocacy Center at Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville on Wednesday, a seven-week-old infant who had been severely beaten was upstairs. She had two broken legs, five broken ribs, and internal swelling from a brutal assault—as well as injuries from earlier attacks that began at only four weeks old. Her own father was charged with the abuse.

Our contact at MCAC told us that they are seeing more and more cases like this one. On the day of our delivery there were only supposed to be four children getting forensic medical exams—but over the night four more phone calls had come in, and there were eight children sitting there now. The kids who pass through MCAC sign their initials on the leaves of a tree painted along one wall. Some leave short messages like, “Don’t be afraid.” The tree becomes part of their therapy and healing process.

More than five million children are reported as abused or neglected every year in the U.S., including more than 4,000 in Buncombe County alone. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and yet it’s hard sometimes, in the face of such abject cruelty, to even know where to begin.

Our Circle of Hope core volunteer group is at the heart of what Sleep Tight Kids does, and it can give us a place to start. The time commitment is flexible and the contributions can be small, but by growing our numbers we can reach and nurture more of these children who are so in need. Please consider becoming part of this group by reaching out via Facebook or the website.

We hold quarterly Circle of Hope meetings, and anyone can join (we usually announce them on Facebook). These volunteers might help make a delivery, pick up toy donations from O.P. Taylor’s, shop for clothes at the Carter’s outlet, move our Dip Jars to new locations, or help with our events—whatever time and energy they give makes an impact.

And the numbers add up: On Wednesday we delivered 20 blankets, 239 stuffed animals, 10 pajama sets, 310 dental kits, and 50 books to MCAC, as well as 15 pajama sets, 8 blankets, 6 washcloths, 250 dental kits, 96 stuffed animals, 200 books, 155 toothpastes to Safelight in Hendersonville. That’s a grand total of 1,359 items of comfort.

Teens and kids are some of our best Circle of Hope volunteers. The time they spend with Sleep Tight Kids can be counted toward service projects for school, church, or Scouts.

Our events committee comes out of Circle of Hope as well, planning fêtes like our upcoming August 13 fundraiser at Highland Brewing Company (we’ll reveal more details about this soon, but it will be a family-friendly event with a carnival atmosphere).

Playing a role in the community—no matter how small—can help to break cycles of abuse and give children the hope they need to flourish. Come join us.

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The Asheville Wing War was a huge success on March 5! As the designated nonprofit beneficiary, Sleep Tight Kids was able to connect with the more than 800 attendees and spread the word about the work we do and the need in our community. Founder Jill Schwarzkopf addressed the full group and shared some of the powerful stories behind our organization.

Participants loved our photo booth and games almost as much as taste testing all the best wings Asheville has to offer!

The Asheville Wing War is an annual event (this was its sixth year) produced by All American Food Fights. Local restaurants and chefs are pitted against one another as they battle to produce the best wings in traditional and specialty categories. Judges gave top honors in both categories to Out of the Blue Peruvian, a food truck. Chop House, at the Four Points Sheraton, earned second place in traditional and third in specialty, and Farm to Fender and Luella’s BBQ rounded out the judges’ picks. People’s Choice vote went to Montford Pullup.

Special thanks to the incredibly generous event sponsors: Asheville Racquet Club, Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Blue Ridge Biofuels, Camp Highlander, Classic Event Rental, Dwayne Powell, Edwin Yeates, Firewalker Hot Sauce, Herb Freeman CPA, HEW (Hard Exercise Works), Leah B. Noel CPA, Mozingo Photography, NC Photobox, Palladium Builders, Paper Solutions, Pisgah Brewing Company, RISC Networks, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Sound Barre, Summit Dental, Vista Travel Palm Beach, and The Wired Mouse.

Our great group of volunteers included founder Jill Schwarzkopf; board members Kim Boose, Amanda Bowen, Kristine Freeman, Leanne Johnson, Wendy Knowles, Scott Schwarzkopf, and Carrie Turner; and Wendy Land, Chelsea Powell, Carol Reid, and Erin Stachura.

Sleep Tight Kids was so honored to participate in this incredibly fun and high-spirited event. We had a great time, and are already looking forward to next year!

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Sleep Tight Kids wouldn’t be able to provide the services we do without the support of our board, who dedicate their time and resources to making the lives of displaced children feel warmer and safer. This month we’re getting to know these dedicated individuals on the blog.


Kristine Freeman

KRISTINE FREEMAN (vice president)

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic. My father was a school principal and my mom was a nurse. My husband and I have tried to teach our girls and lead by example through hard work and volunteering. Our daughter Katie attended a small university that required service hours. She was a few hours short, and we contacted Jill. When my girls were young they collected trial size toiletries and made up bags for Western Carolina Rescue Mission, so when Jill explained how STK helped in a similar way, but with a focus on children, we knew it was something we could help with.

Describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids.
I will never forget when we brought toys and pajamas to a battered women’s shelter last year. One young mother began tearing up and hugging us when she learned that each child could pick out their own brand-new stuffed animal…and that the donations were coming from complete strangers. You could see in her eyes that she could not comprehend the love we showed to her and her child without asking for anything in return.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
I had a stuffed Gingerbread man, and I never went to bed without that doll and a kiss and snuggle from my mom. She also read to me every night before bed. My father grew up very poor, and he worked hard to break the cycle of poverty.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
My family and I really enjoy traveling and meeting people from all around the world—South Africa, Peru, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas in the past two years. I also enjoy cycling, gardening, caring for my aging father, and photography.


Avery JonesAVERY JONES (treasurer)

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
Jill is a long-time friend of mine, so when she asked me to help, I simply said yes. I have a background in fundraising and bookkeeping so it was a natural fit to serve as the treasurer.

Can you describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids?
Knowing we are helping young children!

What was your favorite toy as a child?
Huge stuffed teddy bear.

What (or who or where) gave you the most comfort when you were young?
My family.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
Spending time with my family, volunteering at my boys’ school, reading, cooking, cycling/hiking. I enjoy the outdoors!


Wendy KnowlesWENDY KNOWLES (secretary)

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
I was introduced to Jill by a mutual friend. She felt my background in marketing would be helpful.

Describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids.
We had a young woman speak at last year’s fundraising event. Natasha painted a clear picture of why our organization is so desperately needed. STK’s efforts gave Natasha hope and a sense of people caring for her. This, in turn, gave her the strength to tackle the many challenges she faced. Her story made it very clear why we must do more for individuals and families in similar circumstances.  ​

What was your favorite toy as a child?
I had a stuffed animal by the name of “Alfie.” I’ll never forget going off to summer camp one year and forgetting Alfie. I was so upset. My older brother packed up my stuffed toy and shipped it to me. I’ll never forget this gesture, and how comforting it was to have Alfie with me.  ​

What (or who or where) gave you the most comfort when you were young?
My mother. I lost her when I was 19, and I greatly sympathize with families who are separated and children who need additional comfort to get through difficult times.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
I have a wedding planning business that keeps me very busy. I enjoy hiking, trying new restaurants in Asheville, frequenting coffee shops, and visiting my daughter in California as often as possible.  ​


Amanda BowenAMANDA BOWEN

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
A few years ago I posted a recommendation on Facebook that I was looking for a local nonprofit to donate to and a friend shared Sleep Tight Kids with me. I instantly fell in love.

Do you have a specific connection to the work?
My son Dylan had a strong connection to his blanket at an extremely early age (two months old). The way he loved and snuggled with his blanket was undeniable and I thought, “Wow! What if I could help provide that kind of comfort to another child?”

Describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids.
I’m not sure if I have just one specific moment! I love what we accomplish each day, each month, each delivery to these children. It’s uplifting and inspiring, to say the least. If our efforts can help these kids have sweet dreams when they lay their heads down in times of uncertainty, confusion and fear, then we have fulfilled our mission.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
It was a stuffed doll that had my name on her shirt and kind of looked like me. I took it everywhere. One time, I left it in a restroom while my family and I were traveling on a long trip! I was devastated and began crying. My mother turned around to go all the way back to get it. We found her and all was right with the world.


Kim BooseKIM BOOSE

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
Jill was client of mine for personal training, and she was also my daughter’s wedding photographer. She shared with me what Sleep Tight Kids does and her dream and her vision and how much work she put into it for unselfish reasons. I wanted to be a part of that, somehow, in some way.

Describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids.
I will never forget when Circles of Hope reached out. They had a bunch of kids coming in, but had no supplies. Jill asked for toothbrushes, wipes, just basic necessities. My kids have so much. We take that for granted when so many had nothing. That’s when the reality really hit me. I thought, “I have to just go physically do this myself.” It’s scary that there are children in our own community that are in this situation.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
I collected stuffed hippopotamuses. I loved this one big purple fat snuggly hippopotamus. The hippopotamuses were a symbol that made me feel special, made me feel comforted.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
I have my children who are grown, and three grandchildren. I run the group fitness at Asheville Racquet Club. I work out a lot. I’m very into the physical side of bringing people happiness and making people smile.


Missy CulverMISSY CULVER

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
Jill told me about her dream for STK. I was so inspired by the idea and her passion for it. I had two very young children and it struck me as something I wanted to be a part of. The thought of any child going through such traumatic experiences broke my heart.

Describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids.
Last fall we held a fundraiser at Bold Rock Cider. Jill asked if I could pick up a guest of honor at Western Carolina Rescue Mission. This mother of two had an incredible story, and I was lucky enough to have that time in the car with her and my children. It was eye opening to the reality of the needs out there, and the impact that STK is having, not just on the children, but on the parents as well. The impact hearing that story firsthand for my children was remarkable.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
This will sound ridiculous, but keep in mind I had two older brothers: Stretch Armstrong was SO cool! I did have a favorite teddy bear that I wore down to rags, but the real comfort came from my amazing mom.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
I work in accounting, helping small local businesses with bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes. But for fun I’m either playing with my two girls, playing or listening to music, or hiking or paddle boarding.


Leanne JohnsonLEANNE JOHNSON

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
When I first met
Jill, she was a teacher at Mills River Elementary, the school my children attended. Being involved at school, I have seen how children can be left in a tough spot and displaced with nothing but the clothes on their back. When Jill started Sleep Tight Kids, I wanted to help.

Can you describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids?
While visiting a rescue facility, we met a baby boy whose mother was pregnant while she was incarcerated and had to finish her sentence after giving birth. He was addicted to drugs when he was born and had a very tough time detoxing. This was a firsthand experience how children can end up in a situation, mother or no mother, where they have nothing. Seeing the elated expression on the employee’s face when Jill presented pajamas, blankets, and stuffed animals to help with that little fellow, as well as the other children in the facility, was so touching.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
My favorite toys were my stuffed animals “Little Bear” and “Monkey.” The bear sucked his thumb. The monkey was nothing fancy, but I loved him. Remembering how those simple stuffed animals gave me comfort and happiness makes me smile right now. Simple things can mean so much to a child.

What (or who or where) gave you the most comfort when you were young?
My mom was always there, raising me to be a strong, Christian girl and always supporting me in anything I did. Her words of wisdom, strength in her character, and loving arms have always been my comfort.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
I am a wife, first and foremost. Then I am a mother to my two children, Isaac (12) and Ellory (10). It’s hard to keep it in this order, but I believe God wants it that way. I try to spend time focusing on my marriage as best as possible and being supportive to my husband, as well as keeping our house intact. My family is my life. However, I do own and operate Paper Solutions Inc., which distributes paper rolls, ink ribbons, and more.


Scott Schwarzkopf

SCOTT SCHWARZKOPF

What led you to Sleep Tight Kids?
Supporting my wife, Jill, was the big reason. I belong to the Kiwanis Club of Asheville, and one of our missions is bettering lives of children here. Obviously that works perfectly with Sleep Tight Kids.

Describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids.
For a lot of events, I don’t go; they don’t want men at the battered woman’s shelter. But seeing the images captured has been amazing. There’s one picture of a kid with a single tear coming down his cheek. I did go a pajama party we had at Steadfast House. I remember a little girl who was so shy. She came out of her shell when we all showed up in pajamas, brought cake, and had nice little party.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
The Atari 2600. It still holds a soft spot in my heart.

What (or who or where) gave you the most comfort when you were young?
It was going to grandma’s house for the Christmas holidays. Whether it was the holidays or her house, it always smelled like chocolate pudding.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
My job is fundraising for universities. Otherwise, my kids’ activities, dance lessons, swimming lessons, horseback lessons, guitar lessons. I love spending time with them and doing things they like.


Carrie TurnerCARRIE TURNER

What are some specific connections you have to the work of Sleep Tight Kids?
I have two young children who have both been very attached to bedtime comfort items. My daughter (Dora, nine) had a hand-knit baby blanket that she literally loved to extinction. My son (Oscar, five) sleeps every night with his teddy bear, “Foxy.” I can only imagine how devastating it would be for them if these items were lost in an emergency situation. To help a child in a scary and difficult time with something so basic and fulfilling as a teddy bear or warm PJs is such a great thing.

Describe your most uplifting moment working with Sleep Tight Kids.
It’s been inspiring to me to see children (my own and others) get involved in the cause. I think if we can inspire empathy in our children, they might become the generation that has the power to change the world for the better.

What was your favorite toy as a child?
I always enjoyed toys that had a creative element to them—Etch-a-Sketch, Spirograph, Tinker Toys. We had a set of wooden blocks with holes/tracks that you could connect and send marbles through. I still play with that at my dad’s house! And I had a  Little People hospital, which I really loved.

What (or who or where) gave you the most comfort when you were young?
I have always been an animal lover, so there were always pets to be friends, companions, protectors, and comforters. I grew up in a rural area so I spent a lot of time exploring in the woods with our dogs and cats.

How do you spend your time when you’re not working with Sleep Tight Kids?
My husband Brian and I live in West Asheville with our kids and several pets. We work together as self-employed artists: Brian is a musician and I’m a freelance photographer. I love cooking, biking, yoga, and hiking with the dogs, and I’m a big Star Wars nerd/fan, so you can always find a Star Wars novel on my bedside table.

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Four-year-old Brooke has joined the wrong group on the floor of the Eliada Home gym. When the teacher stands the kids up to return to the classroom, she notices Brooke. “Oops! You’re not with me. Stay here, okay?” she says, as the rest of the children depart in a single file line. It’s only a quick moment—and Brooke’s correct class is just across the gym—but her sense of abandonment is keen. Her eyes well up and a few tears slip down her cheeks. But in Brooke’s bag is a brand-new stuffed elephant (among other new bedtime items), and when she pulls it out and holds it close, her tears stop. In a few more moments she’s been coaxed into intoning some delightful high-pitched squeals—the “sound an elephant makes.” Her classmates join her, having finally selected their own new stuffed animal friends, and the momentary crisis has been averted.

The children in Eliada’s academy, daycare, and after-school programs are often in transition from unstable environments. Some are in the foster care system and some are housed on Eliada’s campus, while others still live at home, but come from underserved families or have special learning needs. Many have experienced abuse, neglect, or other trauma. They are exactly the children Sleep Tight Kids aims to reach out to with comfort, warmth, and reassurance.

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Last Tuesday marked the second annual holiday gift-giving event for Sleep Tight Kids at Eliada. More than 200 kids, from toddlers to 12-year-olds, visited the Eliada gym to choose their own pajama sets, blankets, stuffed animals, and dental hygiene kits, and all walked away with a bag with their name on it, literally spilling over with gifts. (Babies from only six weeks old received their own special delivery.)

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Volunteers manned tables overflowing with goods—particularly a full menagerie of very soft stuffed animals. As quickly as kids could make their selections, the tables were restocked, and new types of animals were unearthed from a seemingly endless supply of boxes—with popular choices like puppies and kittens; lions, tigers, and four kinds of bears; and even beavers, horses, and moose (rechristened reindeer by many of the children, given the wintry season). Some kids, their faces lit with joy, made beelines for their animal of choice, while others remained cautious in their decision-making process, wanting to be certain the bounty was truly meant for them.

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Bright pajama sets featured polka dots, ballet shoes, trucks, penguins, yetis, and more. A teacher noted that the following week would feature a Wear-Your-Pajamas-to-School Day at Eliada, so the kids would be able to put their new fashions on display. Thick, fuzzy blankets of red, blue, and green were stacked high on the tables, and promised warmth on a chilly day.

Teachers exhorted their students to leave their gifts in the bags until they got back to the classroom in an orderly fashion, but most kids simply couldn’t resist pulling out their stuffed animals for a hug. Many of the children came up with names for their new toys on the spot—Fuzzy for a koala, Rudolph for the reindeer, Foxy for a fox, and so on. And at least one found delight even in the dental hygiene kit: “Green is my favorite color!” exclaimed a girl named Sophie, discovering the enclosed toothbrush of that hue.

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“This is the best Christmas Day ever,” sighed Sophie blissfully, clutching her toothbrush in one hand and a stuffed giraffe in the other, completely unfazed by the fact that the holiday itself was still 12 days away.

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