12/19/2012 05:54 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2013

In the Children's Faces

This is always the time of year for reflection, cheer and giving thanks for family and friends... and this year we feel all those things but we also have heavy hearts for the families in Newtown, Conn. who cannot share in the joy of the season. We see beautiful children's faces every day at
Pajama Program and their smiles stay with us for weeks after they leave. I know all of us will remember the faces of the Sandy Hook children for a long, long time and we'll keep their goodness in our hearts forever.

Eleven years ago I carried a plastic bag with a dozen pajamas and books with me around town visiting one shelter at a time. It was the children's faces that I saw that propelled me to make another trip, find another shelter and 12 more children to comfort. Now our volunteer chapter presidents around the U.S. do more of the work as they reach so many thousands of children -- more than my original 12! Their time, sensitivity and excitement for getting the pajamas and books to the children is extraordinary. I know in my heart the children feel our comfort whether they see us or not. I believe there is reassurance in the children's faces when our boxes arrive. A piece of our hearts is in every box -- in the sleeves of the pajamas and on every page of every book.

Children receive our gifts in person when they visit our reading centers. There are mixed emotions in the children's faces when they take their first steps inside the door. They don't know what to expect in this new place and then -- their faces light up like Christmas tress when they enter and see Snow White, the Little Mermaid, Dora and Spiderman as big as life on the wall!

I know your heart breaks, as mine does, every time we see a photo of one of the Sandy Hook Elementary School children who lost his or her life so senselessly. I see in those faces peace and virtue, kindness and naïveté. I think how precious all children are and how I wish we could shield them all from pain and sadness.

Our hearts will embrace our children forever. Every day their faces give us the strength to move forward to help them together.