Beacon Falls teen gives the gift of sweet dreams

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Boston Red Sox Kid Nation Captain Karissa Wilkinson of Beacon Falls shows the teddy bears and pajamas she collected for children at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Wilkinson collected a total of 55 teddy bears and 29 pairs of pajamas. -LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — While collecting teddy bears and pajamas for hospitalized children, Karissa Wilkinson was given the chance to prove she was a fan of both the Boston Red Sox and community service.

For Wilkinson, a Beacon Falls resident who has been a Red Sox fan her whole life, it all started with an e-mail that was looking for youths to be captains of the Red Sox Kid Nation.

According to a press release from Hood, who sponsors the Red Sox Kid Nation, the applicant had to be between the ages of 10 and 14, crazy about the Boston Red Sox, committed to rallying fellow Kid Nation members to take part in community service events and willing to do whatever it takes to make Red Sox Kid Nation the best Kids’ Club in all of Major League Baseball.

Wilkinson, who was 13 at the time, fit all the criteria and submitted an essay to the Kid Nation.

“We had to write an essay about how we would help our community if we won,” Wilkinson said.

Out of all the essays that were received, only 12 were chosen to be Kid Nation captains, and Wilkinson was among them.

“I was really, really excited. I was just so happy that I won. I couldn’t believe it,” Wilkinson said.

Before one of the Red Sox’s home games, Wilkinson and the other 11 captains were brought down to the field to meet the previous Kid Captains and be introduced to the audience.

What Wilkinson remembers most about that experience is that she, along with the other captains, were on the JumboTron and yelled “play ball” at the start of the game.

However, being a Kid Captain was not just about attending games. Each of the Kid Captains had to do something that gave back to their community.

Wilkinson decided to help children at Yale-New Haven Hospital have a good night sleep.

She started a program, which she called the Sweet Dreams Collection, where she collected teddy bears and pajamas for the children.

“I thought it would be comforting because of everything they are going through,” Wilkinson said.

As of late last month, Wilkinson collected 49 teddy bears and 25 pairs of pajamas for the children at the hospital.

“Forty-nine teddy bears, that means 49 kids will be helped out. Plus the pajamas. That amounted to a lot if you think about it in kids rather than just items,” Wilkinson said. “I was excited to see how many kids it was actually going to help out.”

In total, Wilkinson collected 55 teddy bears and 29 pairs of pajamas for to bring to the children at the hospital. Wilkinson delivered the teddy bears and pajamas on Wednesday.

Teddy bears and pajamas aren’t the only thing that Wilkinson is bringing the children in the hospital.

Hood donated $1,000 towards her community service project and she wanted that money to continue with the sweet dreams theme.

Some of that money will go towards 24 recordable story books, so parents can read and record a story for their child. That means the child can be read to sleep by the parent, even when the parents can’t physically be in the room.

The money will also go towards 10 sound machines that will help lull the children to sleep.

“I’m really excited that it’s going to be helping out the kids, and I’m really happy that so many people came and donated because it was just like I hoped,” Wilkinson said.