West Hartford Public Schools students, teachers, and administrators donated money to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and in exchange got to wear their pajamas for the day.
By Ronni Newton
Students and teachers throughout West Hartford Public Schools spent a school day in their pajamas – and it wasn’t a remote learning day.
On Friday, Dec. 10, the entire district (with the exception of Conard High School where the event was delayed for a week due to another previously-scheduled fundraiser on that day) participated in PJ Day for the Kids, an annual fundraiser for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center traditionally held on the second Friday in December.
Hall math teacher Laura Nichols, whose son was given a room on the oncology floor at Connecticut Children’s years ago when he had surgery, worked to expand the PJ Day fundraiser to all West Hartford Public Schools five years ago, as a way to focus on doing something positive and giving back. Rylie Dagnall, a childhood cancer survivor who graduated from Hall last June, had organized West Hartford’s first PJ Day fundraiser I’m 2014 when she was a student at King Philip Middle School, and worked on the event with Nichols throughout her high school years.
Statewide, PJ Day for the Kids is now in its 11th year. The fundraiser was originally started by Nick Wesoloskie of Coventry, CT, who as a second-grader decided to do something for kids like his baby sister, Charlotte – who battled cancer and is now cancer-free.
“He wanted to honor survivors, those lost and those still in the fight of their lives – in their PJs – for days, weeks, or longer,” Nichols said. “From the humble beginning of one school in Coventry raising $500 to a state-recognized day of awareness raising more than $1.4 million in 10 years, PJ Day spreads hope to kids and families and inspires participants across the state. The incredible amount of funding PJ Day provides, year after year, has changed the landscape of cancer care and outcomes at Connecticut Children’s. At nearly half million dollars annually – and growing – Connecticut Children’s is able to invest in the research and care that is making real change for kids battling cancer today and tomorrow.”
This year’s goal was to raise $500,000 statewide.
The results of the 2021 fundraiser have not yet been finalized, but prior to this year West Hartford Public Schools had raised a total of $67,000 since 2014. Last year the district raised $23,000.
“West Hartford Public Schools’ efforts have made us the top school district in fundraising for the event for each of the past two years,” Nichols said.
Anyone who wants to wear their pajamas to school on PJ Day pays $1 or more for the privilege, but there are other fundraisers that also support the efforts. “In addition to what we raised on Friday, we collected money at the Hall vs. Conard football game (and split it 50/50), held two fundraising events at restaurants (Chipotle & Harry’s Bishops Corner) and our business club, DECA, donated $5 for every pair of PJ pants they sold last week,” said Amy Shaffer, Student Activities and Career Center coordinator at Hall High School.
Nichols said she’s excited not just by the funds raised, but also by the increased level of participation this year. “Schools and families now look forward to this annual event and student and staff participation was outstanding. This increased participation is raising awareness and humanitarianism among our student population, which, in my opinion, is as important as the actual fundraising.”
She expressed her thanks to building coordinators, who organize the event at each school, for their key roles in the overall success.
Donations can still be made to the West Hartford Public Schools team at this link: PJ Day for the Kids – WHPS Team Donation Page as well as by scanning the QR code below.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.