A Winnipeg artist is trying to refurbish 2020’s gloomy image – by collecting 2,020 pairs of pyjamas for needy schoolchildren this holiday season.

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A Winnipeg artist is trying to refurbish 2020’s gloomy image – by collecting 2,020 pairs of pyjamas for needy schoolchildren this holiday season.

For the ninth straight year, Carmela Wade is organizing her Visions of Sugarplums Pyjama Project, a drive to provide needy schoolchildren in the community with the gift of new PJs for the holidays.

Holiday moments

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Manitobans are preparing to celebrate a holiday season unlike any other in memory. We’d like you to share your stories of people going above and beyond to celebrate the season amid a pandemic.

Share them with columnist Doug Speirs at doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

"I think it’s the gift of a hug, the gift of someone caring about you and the gift of comfort and joy," says Wade, an art educator and co-founder of Creative Revival Co., a local consulting firm that uses art workshops to foster creative thinking for corporations and schools.

"I’ve already delivered to three schools, but the bottom line is I still need pyjamas."

In a bid to turn a negative into a positive, Wade, 57, a married mother of two, has set a lofty goal for a holiday pyjama drive being conducted during the most difficult, depressing year in modern memory.

"I’m hoping to get 2,020 pairs of pyjamas because it’s 2020," she says. "I hope that will make 2020 a positive in other people’s eyes."

Carmela Wade has organized a Christmas pyjama drive for needy children for nine years.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Carmela Wade has organized a Christmas pyjama drive for needy children for nine years.

Her pyjama passion began following a casual chat with an inner-city principal before the holidays.

"I was teaching art at Brooklands School and at the end of the day I was having a conversation with the principal," she recalls. "He was telling me about plans for their holiday lunch. They had volunteer knitters that made hats and mittens, but that year they didn’t have it.

"So I asked what the kids would be getting, and he just said: ‘A candy cane.’ I left there wondering what I could do. That’s when I thought of pyjamas. I give my own children pyjamas every Christmas Eve. So I decided I could do pyjamas."

The pyjama project has snowballed since then.

"This year, I’ll be doing eight schools — three in St. James and five in the inner city — and a women’s shelter, as well as providing pyjamas for five hampers," she says.

How to help the PJ drive

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Artist Carmela Wade is trying to brighten Christmas 2020 by collecting 2,020 pairs of new pyjamas for needy schoolchildren in Winnipeg.

You can help her ninth annual Visions of Sugarplums Pyjama Project by calling her at 204-510-3094 or emailing her at carmelawade@hotmail.com.

You can donate pyjamas or cash to help cover online purchases. Wade will arrange curbside pick-up or drop-off as requested.

"I've had people dropping off bags of pyjamas and boxes of pyjamas. That's awesome. Some people just say: 'Here's a cheque.' That's awesome, too. Money is always good because I just put it on online orders," she said.

Wade promotes the project on her Facebook and Instagram pages, but it’s mostly spread through word-of-mouth. "I tell everyone about it, even if they don’t want to hear about it. When people ask ‘what can I do to help?’ I just say tell 10 friends."

She says the need for new pyjamas is even greater amid a pandemic when so many parents have been thrown out of work by the economic fallout of COVID-19.

"A lot of kids don’t have their own pair of pyjamas," Wade says. "I think pyjamas are a basic essential need. It’s comfort and love all wrapped up. It says someone loves you. It’s a real eye-opener when we are living in such comfort; we just take pyjamas for granted.

"Some of these kids don’t even have their own beds. It’s just heart-wrenching."

Far from hampering the campaign, Wade says the health crisis seems to be increasing the generosity of already-generous Winnipeggers.

"This year we’ve seen by far the best support ever. I don’t know what it is. I think the more you ask for, the more you get. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic. I don’t think the pandemic has slowed anything down. I think people are being more generous. I get donations from across Canada, but Winnipeggers are amazing.

“I think pyjamas are a basic essential need. It’s comfort and love all wrapped up. It says someone loves you." – Carmela Wade

"My basement is wall-to-wall pyjamas. I operate out of my house in Lindenwoods. I might need a warehouse soon. I’m absolutely surprised. I never take it for granted."

So far, Wade has collected about 1,000 pairs of PJs, but she’s still on the hunt for another 1,500 pairs of long-sleeved new pyjamas, especially in larger sizes.

"A lot of these kids are adult sizes. Right now, my need is size 14s and up, running into the adult sizes. I’d like long-sleeved pyjamas for winter."

The project, which she hopes becomes a registered charity, is supported by about eight hardcore volunteers that sort, pack, wrap, and label each pair with the name of the young recipient.

"It has to be personalized," she says. "I have a connection with the schools. They send me all the class lists and I fill orders that way… It’s a grassroots project. That’s how it happens. It’s just out of my house.

"My volunteers wrap in their own homes. I bring bags of pyjamas to them and they wrap them and bring them back to me."

Visions of Sugarplums Pyjama Project is run out of Wade's home in Lindenwoods. She says amid the pandemic more people are donating than ever.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Visions of Sugarplums Pyjama Project is run out of Wade's home in Lindenwoods. She says amid the pandemic more people are donating than ever.

Wade handles all the deliveries solo to comply with pandemic restrictions.

The campaign deadline is Dec. 6, but it’s flexible and Wade vowed to continue taking donations well after that date. She’s just happy that she was able to get the annual holiday drive off the ground amid a global health crisis.

"I wasn’t even sure if I should run it this year," she says. "Then I had a conversation with the principal at Brooklands and he said that, especially this year, the kids desperately need something normal."

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs
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Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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