DreamNight at the Zoo 2012

Every year on the first Friday night in June, 170 zoos around the world open their gates to families of children with special needs, chronic illnesses, and other developmental conditions for DreamNight at the Zoo. Beginning in 1996 at Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands, our local zoo, Roger Williams Park Zoo, was one of the first American zoos to participate starting in 2004. Last night was our third DreamNight at Roger Williams Zoo and it was every bit as wonderful as the first two we were lucky enough to attend. Karin and I have always loved zoos and so this event holds a very special place in our hearts. Since I’ve been posting about my photography lately this year I decided to bring my big camera and put together a bit of a photo essay of this year’s event. It is crazy long and may take a little while to load, I probably should break it up into pieces but knowing me I’d never get around to writing or posting a part II so I’ll just throw it all at you at once. Hope you enjoy.

The beauty of DreamNight at the Zoo lies not in all the extra zoo keepers on hand, walking around with animals to show off like snakes …

And lizards…

and penguins . . .

And even chickens . . .

Nor is it found in the other entertainments of the evening, throughout the zoo and between animal exhibits are craft tables and the big head mascots from the local major league soccer, minor league hockey and baseball teams, the state university mascot and all sorts of other entertainment.

Like this kid with his magic bubbles…

and jugglers . .

and Musicians . . .

And even tattoo artists. . .

Of course, his Mother refused to sign the consent form because of Liam’s “sensitive skin” so we went with a temporary tattoo instead of the real thing. This time.

Since it takes place in the early evening we are even able to see more of the feeding routine with many of the animals which gives a unique opportunity to see the animals behave and interact with their keepers.  It’s exciting and the animals seem to enjoy it as well…

Of course not every animal is impressed with dusk. Like this red-tailed panda. . .

Access to fun moments like that are made even more fun since the event is private and the crowd is so much smaller than normal zoo hours. But it isn’t even the crowd size that makes DreamNight so special.

The true beauty and meaning found at DreamNight is the knowing sense of community that every family in attendance has. The knowing how lucky we are to have a night like this. A night at the zoo without some of the worrying.

Individual families with individual worries, yet we all understand the need for a level of patience, courtesy, and acceptance that can unfortunately be hard to find in the gen-pop of normalcy*.

So no need to worry about things like the stares, or taking up too much room with Liam’s chair, we may all be on different journey’s but we’re all in the same boat here on DreamNight.

No one here worries about vents, trachs or feeding pumps. We have more fun things to worry about at DreamNight than silly things like tubes and such.

No one here worries about shouts, screams, or grunts. The quiet of a kid who could nap even in a crowd, all the way to the cries and shrieks of a sensory sensitive tantrum (guess which one Liam was) seem more normal at dreamnight than the whines of the normal kids for ice cream or a toy in the gift shop.

It’s nice to feel normal for a night.

To be just one of the gang.

That’s the beauty of DreamNight and I already can’t wait for next year.

Talk to you later.

*Note: I was in a band in high school and we called ourselves Return to Normalcy a phrase coined by then candid for President Warren G Harding. Given the word “normal” has all sorts of new connotations for me now I think I’m going to start dropping normalcy out there more often.


  1. Thanks Eric was hoping that you would post about Dream Night. I know the picture of the giraffe was for Grammy and I appreciate it. Love the tattoo, glad you had a great time.

  2. Today I took Zoey to Special Olympics and felt the very same way you did tonight at the zoo. Especially when I realized I forgot her mickey extension AND had not replaced my emergency supply in the car. So … an announcement was made over the PA, asking for the extension and voila .. 3-4 moms at our tent in under 2 minutes, with extensions in hand. Thats my kind of normal.

    the pictures are beautiful and your boy, as always, magic. And seeing I sport two tattoos of my own, a tattooed boy, I am always a sucker for!

  3. I think you caught the essence of the night!For most of us at the zoo, Dreamnight is our favorite event, and as you could tell, there are more than enough volunteers! We all look forward to it.

  4. Lovely story of a night that everyone who works and volunteers at the zoo looks forward to each year as much as you do. I unfortunately was not able to volunteer this year but was there is spirit with you.

  5. Wonderful blog and pictures. I think we docents (though some of us may look like Faeries for a night) enjoy this event as much as the guests. I look forward to it every year. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to see it through your eyes. See you next year!!

  6. Sweet blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. Do you have
    any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve
    been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

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