What about pajamas?
That's what Pamela Badolato, a Berwyn mother of four, wondered last winter.
She was trying to find a way to teach her kids about giving back. She thought of a long-standing tradition in her family: Grandparents give their grandchildren pajamas to open on Christmas Eve. Badolato, 32, continues to receive PJs from her grandparents to this day, and her parents give them to her children.
"I was just inspired," Badolato said. "What if we collected pajamas?"
So the former preschool teacher started the Plaid Pajama Project in November 2014, hoping to round up 50 or 100 pairs of PJs from friends and family to give to kids in need for the holidays.
By New Year's, thanks to the power of social media and word of mouth, Badolato had distributed 600 pairs, she said.
Last year's pairs were donated to 11 area charities that support low-income, homeless, or in-need children, including the Ronald McDonald House, Project Sweet Peas, and Catholic Partnership Schools of Camden as well as several individual families, Badolato said.
Some people told Badolato that the pajamas were the only gift they had to give their kids for Christmas, she said.
"It grounds you a little bit," she said. "It really does touch you to think . . . you're really making a difference."
This year, Badolato is aiming bigger, hoping to collect 1,000 pairs. She has 11 charities and counting lined up to receive jammies.
Many this year will go to the Support Center for Child Advocates, a Philadelphia law firm that provides services to children in the child welfare system. The Plaid Pajamas Project pledged sleepwear for 287 of the teenagers the group serves.
"A lot of our kids don't have much," said Moira Mulroney, director of development and communications for the center. "We like to be able to provide for them some of life's nice comforts, and pajamas surely does that."
Last year, the project donated newborn pajamas to Precious Kisses, the local division of Project Sweet Peas, a national nonprofit that supports families with babies in neonatal intensive care units. Parents are usually not prepared with pajamas for their premature babies, said Precious Kisses project coordinator Maria Bentin.
"The fleece footed PJs donated are often the baby's first outfit and bring such joy to parents during what can be one of the most difficult times in their lives," Bentin said.
Other charities solicit pajamas, such as the national group Pajama Program. Badolato's project took off locally, she said, thanks to the "excited fan base" of friends and family she tapped into.
Though it was inspired by a Christmas tradition, the project is nondenominational, said Badolato, who is an associate publisher of Main Line Parent Magazine.
Badolato's children - who range in age from 3 to 7 - help out with everything from sorting to wrapping to shipping, she said. Her dining room fills with pajamas, and she holds wrapping parties with friends and family.
In Chester and Montgomery Counties and Philadelphia, 15 businesses are taking donations to the project at drop-off boxes. Badolato also accepts pajamas by mail.
Her kids want to someday expand the project to include books and blankets. They have become concerned about families without food or clothing, she said.
"It's important for them to know that when you're lucky enough to have all the things you need, that means now it's your job to help other people and give back to them," she said.
For more information on the project, go to www.plaidpajamasproject.com.