By Priscilla Rodriguez | m/Oppenheim Media Writer
What was your favorite book as a child? Do you remember you favorite stuffed animal growing up? Did you have a favorite blanket that you would curl up into, to feel safe, to feel warm?
Project Night Night, headquartered in San Francisco, is on a mission to bring those three comforting items to homeless children all across the U.S. in hopes of providing them with peace of mind in stressful moments.
“For kids in really difficult situations, something that simple can really work to bring down those stressful and dangerous levels in their system,” says Kendra Robins, Founder and Executive Director of Project Night Night.
Born out of her own observations while spending time with her infant, the idea, though seemingly simple – a tote filled with a book, a blanket and stuffed animal toy – has blossomed into a force that delivers 35,000 “night night” packages to children living in shelters every year. Robin’s background as an attorney and experience in helping others to launch their ideas for nonprofits helped to shape the organization’s development over time.
“I didn’t have a grand plan for Project Night Night,” says Robins, “but I realized along the way that those three items resonated deeply with everybody because people grew up with at least one of those things that was important to them and that helped them overcome tough times.”
Today, the nonprofit works with more than 800 social service organizations around the country to deliver free packages to children in need of a comforting toy or a high quality book to read.
In many cases, these children are living in shelters temporarily because their lives have been impacted by a natural disaster, and in other cases, children are chronically homeless, moving from one shelter to the next without a constant in their lives.
“The kids that we help tend not to attend school on regular basis; they are moved around frequently as their shelter and living situations change and they may be very far from the school. Having a high quality book, while some kids might take that for granted because they have a whole bookshelf, is something very special to a child,” explains Robins.
The tote bags are filled with three items: a soft blanket, a stuffed animal, and a high quality book that reflects the child’s age group (either baby, child or preteen). Given that a child might only own that single book and perhaps not have access to a vast library of great reading material, Project Night Night ensures that the book is tailored to the child’s age group, with vast vocabulary and recognizable titles.
“It’s incredibly important for us that the quality of the bag is not any less because of the child’s situation and in fact should be more than their housed peers,” says Robins.
Working with a team of nearly 10,000 volunteers per year, Project Night Night has reached thousands of children and families every year, delivering a simple message to those who are facing various challenges in their lives: “You are valuable, you are special, and I think you are worthwhile to have and to own these items.”
Since its founding in 2005, the organization has delivered over 250,000 totes to children across the U.S. and continues to expand its partnerships around the country.
As in most cases for nonprofits, the organization has its eye on an opportunity to land reduced shipping fees for packages so that the totes can reach even more children in need across the U.S.
“I don’t want to turn a child down simply because s/he isn’t near me,” says Robins.
“There are no geographical barriers.”