Foundation grows, granddaughter's memory carries on for Ravens' Community Quarterback award winner

Kami's Jammies grows in size in the past two years

September 25, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

In the three years that she battled leukemia, Kamryn Lambert spent more time at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in Baltimore than she did at home with her family.

When she was home in Pasadena, Kami, as she was called, would often accompany her maternal grandmother, Debi Katzenberger, on shopping trips for pajamas.

"She rarely ever got to go to school, so her way of expressing herself and being able to always be fashionable was to always buy really fun or cool pajamas when she returned to the hospital," Katzenberger recalled last week. "She hated open gowns and the hospital-issued stuff that they gave out. We'd let her pick out pajamas to kind of cheer her up and make it seem like she was at home."

Kami Lambert lost her battle Sept. 3, 2007. She was a month shy of her 9th birthday.

"After she passed away, we tried to think of things that were uniquely Kamryn, and the nurses said they would always see her walking up and down the halls with her cute pajamas and they'd always stop and see what she had on that day," Katzenberger said.

"It went from the initial 'what's uniquely Kamryn' to 'let's do some kind of program,' and she just happened to have the perfect name to come up with a cute name for the program. It kind of all fell together. You could see the difference it made when she wore the pajamas. She felt like she was still part of the world."

In March 2008, Katzenberger started Kami's Jammies. Part of the Casey Cares Foundation, Kami's Jammies donates pajamas to pediatric patients at area hospitals, as well as a hospital in Washington and one in Philadelphia. Starting with five hospitals, the foundation now works with 20.

According to Katzenberger, more than 4,000 pairs of pajamas have been donated in the past two years.

Katzenberger has seen the project grow since she was honored last year by the Ravens as one of the team's three Community Quarterback award winners. Katzenberger said she used the $2,000 grant she received from the Ravens to buy extra-small or extra-large pajama sizes.

"That gave us the money to purchase the stuff that doesn't get donated," she said. "It was really, really important."

According to Melanie LeGrande, community relations director for the Ravens, the award is funded by NFL Charities and celebrates those who "exhibit exceptional leadership, dedication and commitment to bettering their local communities."

The team is currently accepting nominations for this year's awards and will honor selected volunteers during the game Nov. 28 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and M&T Bank Stadium. LeGrande said the team expects to receive more than the 75 to 100 nominations they have received in the past.

"There's so many great people doing so many great things in the community," she said.

Being honored by the Ravens also struck a personal note for Katzenberger.

"We're great Ravens fans. Kamryn was a big Ravens fan. Every week we would make a big party out of watching the Ravens play, whether she was in the hospital or out," Katzenberger said. "She was a cheerleader in our recreational football league, even after she was sick."

Katzenberger said that while her granddaughter didn't get to attend any games, she did get to meet former kicker Matt Stover through his charitable work with Casey Cares. Katzenberger was honored before a Ravens game last November.

"It was very exciting," said Katzenberger, an insurance claims adjuster who is the grandmother of nine, including Kamryn's two younger brothers. "Just the fact of getting your program name out there, so that people would know what we did and might want to support us. It was also fun meeting the other winners to see what they did."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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