N'Jhari Jackson, 12, of Tampa, Fla., a seventh-grader at The Paideia School of Tampa Bay, has delivered more than 4,000 stuffed animals and goodie-filled backpacks to hospitals in three states and two foreign countries to ease the fear and loneliness of young patients. A few years ago, N'Jhari needed surgery. "On my way into the operating room, a nice nurse handed me a stuffed Clifford to hold onto to help calm my fear," he said. "It worked and everything went well!" When N'Jhari heard that his friend Bryce was also in the hospital, he emptied his piggy bank to buy him a stuffed animal. Realizing then that most hospitalized children needed something to comfort them during their stays, N'Jhari told his mother he "would find a way to get a buddy to every kid who was without their real buddies."
N'Jhari made flyers to post at schools and around town asking for donations of new stuffed animals for his program, "Pajama Buddy Voyage." Then, with help from family, friends and fellow Boy Scouts, he began delivering his stuffed "pajama buddies" to a local Shriners Hospital. Soon, he had enough animals to expand his deliveries to additional hospitals in Florida, Illinois, Atlanta, Germany and China. N'Jhari also solicits donations to fill backpacks with items such as e-readers, books, iPods, snacks and other gifts for children who are either homebound or confined to lengthy hospital stays. In addition, he delivers blankets and other items to wounded soldiers and ailing veterans, and has raised $1,800 to help cover the medical expenses of an Atlanta girl battling advanced kidney cancer. NJhari recently started another program that has collected and donated 1,200 pairs of kool sox for organizations including the Childrens Home of East Tampa and a mens back-to-work program.