By Aaron Reynolds
If you visited Ivy Stockwell or Berthoud Elementary during the month of November or early-December you may have noticed the front entrance looked more like a college dorm room than an elementary school lobby. However, the boxes of clothing were not dirty laundry but rather pajamas graciously donated by students to help those who may not have a comfy pair to slip into over this chilly winter.
All elementary schools in the Thompson School District participated in the third annual Olson’s Pajama Project. The charity was founded after longtime teacher and Thompson School District (TSD) school board member Sharon Olson passed away in February of 2014. Olson had told David Irby – a former student of Olson – that she worried about poverty in the surrounding area and had a vision to donate pajamas to children who otherwise wouldn’t have any for the winter. The Olson’s Pajama Project was launched within the same year.
Over 600 pajamas were donated throughout the TSD this year, and Ivy Stockwel,l for the second straight year, received the travelling “Olson’s Pajama Project” trophy for donating the most PJs. Though but an afterthought compared to the primary purpose of the project, it goes to demonstrate the immense amount of generosity within the Berthoud community.
The pajamas will not only go to children here in the front range, but also to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where poverty is rampant. Along with elementary participation, students from Conrad Ball Middle School in Loveland were also courteous enough to volunteer time sorting pajamas, then filling orders for shipment.
“The pajamas just keep coming and coming and piling up,” Principal Rick Bowles of Ivy Stockwell said. “There were boxes and boxes.”
Rebekah Beckett, who works in the health office at Berthoud Elementary, knew Sharon Olson personally and described her as a “genuine, wonderful person.”
“She really lived to help kids in the community, and it was something she continued to do after retiring from decades of teaching,” she added.
Beckett acknowledged social media, specifically a community page on Facebook, not only brought together the two elementary schools in the community, but all of the TSD for a really terrific cause.
“It was incredible to see the students rally behind something and really want to make a difference,” she revealed. “They care about helping others and know that participating in projects like this will make a huge impact on their community.”
Principal Melanie Patterson added, “The project is a very special, unique opportunity to create awareness and bring the community together. It was rewarding to see everyone come together for a special cause.”
“One of the amazing things about being in Berthoud is the tremendous, tremendous generosity and compassion around everything,” Bowles concluded. “It doesn’t matter what we are doing – whether collecting money for Christmas in Berthoud or the Olson’s Pajama Project or canned food – people in this community rally and are very generous. They support those in need and it’s just one of the reasons why it’s an amazing community.”
Do you want more information? Please visit OlsonsPajamas.com. Additionally, there are several other ways you can help poverty-stricken communities, such as Pine Ridge, by visiting FriendsofPineRidgeReservation.org.