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For the past eight years, SESI educators and students in Connecticut have embraced a heartwarming tradition that goes beyond the comfort of pajamas by taking part in PJ Day for the Kids, which supports the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Since 2011, hundreds of thousands of children in Connecticut and Massachusetts have paid $1 to wear their PJs to school and, in doing so, have raised more than $1,400,000 in support of kids at Connecticut Children’s.

“We believe PJ Day is a chance for our students and staff to give back to the community,” said Jennifer Johnson, executive director, High Road Schools of Connecticut. “Often our students are on the receiving end of local assistance. Providing them the opportunity to give back helps them feel empowered. Students can use their school earned “money” (received for exhibiting positive behaviors such as staying on task, remaining in assigned areas, following directions, using appropriate language and being respectful) to pay their donation instead of real cash. We’ve had some students donate beyond the expected $1 and even had a student donate all the money in their account one year.”

The fundraiser provides educators at the schools with an opportunity to engage with younger students about the realities of childhood cancer and the reasons why some of their peers might spend significant time in hospital PJs.

While there isn’t a direct connection to the PJ Day program within SESI schools, the day resonates with everyone. Staff say the variety of PJs students decide to wear adds color and joy to the day. The first year the schools supported the fundraiser, they raised $75. That amount continues to grow and in 2023, the SESI community raised $300.

“This has become a well-known cause in the state, and we like our students to be able to experience events that they would experience in their local public schools,” said Johnson. “With nearly the entire state on board to participate in PJ Day for the Kids, it’s evident that the annual event is an uplifting tradition that helps teach students about compassion and the importance of giving back.”