By Debi Katzenberger
Casey Cares Foundation
I am often approached with the question “How did Kami’s Jammies come about?” Attempting to answer this question, I have found that there is no one, simple answer. The idea manifested itself in small pieces over time, while working my way through the grieving process of losing a grandchild to cancer.
On the night of Kamryn’s passing, I made two promises, both of which remain at the forefront of my thoughts every day. My first promise was to Kamryn, that I would honor her memory every day of my life. My second promise was to Kamryn’s father, Chris, that Kamryn would never be forgotten. And that is where the answer to the question “How did Kami’s Jammies come about?” begins.
I started Kami’s Jammies to create a legacy for my granddaughter — a fantastic and brave little girl named Kamryn Lambert — who would never be able to create one for herself. Kamryn was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in September 2004. Although she fought a heroic battle and was in remission, she passed away from complications caused by a depleted immune system on September 3, 2007. Her flair for fashion and unflappable resolve to be a trendsetter in spite of her painful treatments and frequent hospital stays is the foundation on which this legacy is based.
Kami’s Jammies was formed with the mission to provide pajamas to children on extended inpatient stays at the hospital in an effort to brighten their day and make their stay a little more like home. I officially began this journey in February 2008, after surviving the first holiday season without Kamryn. It took its toll on the holiday traditions that had been so important to my family. Kamryn particularly loved the family tradition of wearing holiday pajamas, and as I fought to carry on the tradition without her, I purchased a pair for her as I normally would, simply because it was too painful not to purchase them. Left with the decision of what to do with “Kami’s Jammies,” I decided to give them to another little girl who was battling a brain tumor at the same clinic as Kamryn, the University of Maryland Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic.
This little girl’s excitement at receiving this small gift made me remember how much Kamryn had always looked forward to receiving a new pair of pajamas while she was in the hospital for treatment. Here was something so simple, and yet so uniquely Kamryn, that I decided at that moment to pass this little symbol of joy and normalcy on to others who are battling critical illnesses.
My goal is to ensure that new pajamas are always on hand for patients beginning another round of inpatient treatment, or those who have been inpatients for a long period of time. Kami’s Jammies was introduced to the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in March 2008, exactly six months from the night that I made those two very important promises, and to the very hospital that had taken such wonderful care of Kamryn throughout her illness. Along with the pajamas, we also hold monthly themed pajama parties at the hospital.
In May 2008, Kami’s Jammies became a program under the Casey Cares Foundation, which provides uplifting programs to critically ill children and their families. Kamryn was a recipient of many of the services offered by the foundation, so it was a perfect fit. Together, we have collected over 4,000 pairs of pajamas and have expanded services to other area hospitals, including Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Maryland Medical System.