Three years ago, nine-year-old Reese Shelley's life changed because of a pair of Christmas pyjamas.

The then-six-year-old received a pair for the holidays, as he does every year, and was inspired to begin collecting nightclothes for other children when he realized how lucky he was. 

His mother, Erin Shelley, said he was shocked to learn other children didn't receive the kind of gifts he did.

"It just started with his little words, 'they don't even get pyjamas mum?' when I was trying to explain to him why some kids just don't receive what he does at Christmas," she said.

The first year, the Surrey, B.C., family set a goal of collecting 50 pairs of pyjamas — the family collected 300.

So, Reese set a new goal for the following Christmas.

"One time he says, 'yeah, I want there to be 1,000 pairs of pyjamas' and that's what he told us. And  then all of a sudden he started talking to someone else, 'no I want 1,500.' OK, that's our new goal I guess, and we run with that," said his father Todd Shelley.  

As news of the Christmas pyjama drive spread, collections sprang up throughout B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and across the border into Washington state. Every pair of pyjamas stays in the community where it's collected.

Pyjama boy

Reese Shelley, 9, of Surrey, B.C., has recruited friends and family to help him with his annual Christmas pyjama drive. (CBC)

Reese Shelley also promotes the cause at schools and community groups, and has inspired a growing network of child "pyjama ambassadors."

"I wanted to help them, so I just gathered some friends and family and said 'I need help, I can't do this by myself,'" he said. 

This year, he led a legion of Santa's helpers to his local Christmas charity, bearing more than 3,500 sets of jammies for other kids.

"I feel like I've done something, that I've tucked somebody in for Christmas Eve," he said.

with files from the CBC's Curt Petrovich