Dream Night 2014

 

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Photo by Karin

The magic started when we met Hooligan, before we even entered the zoo. Hooligan, a Providence police horse, who was kind, patient, and gentle enough to meet Liam on our way into Dream Night at the Roger Williams Park Zoo this year. That’s the way things are at Dream Night, from the zoo staff walking around with snakes and lizards, to the docents volunteering in costume, the Hasbro Children’s Hospital employees checking families in, the face painters, jugglers, musicians and temporary tattoo artists, even the police officer on horseback at the zoo’s entrance, it is everyone’s mission to ensure that these kids with special needs, their families and even their carers have an even more special night.

 

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Photo by Karin

No exaggeration, Dream Night is our favorite event of the entire year, and after being rained out last year we have been looking forward to tonight for a long, long time.

 

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Dream Night  began at Rotterdam Zoo in 1996 and is now celebrated in over 170 zoos worldwide on the first Friday in June. In fact Roger Williams Park Zoo was one of the first zoos in the country to have a Dream Night, and it shows. Their dedication to this event rings true in the exceptional attention to helping each and every family have as much fun as they can possibly provide. 20140606-213334-77614438.jpg

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Trachs and vents, wheelchairs and walkers, extra chromosomes or chromosomes missing a piece, from CP to Spina Bifida and any other neurological disorder, none of us feel out-of-place or different at Dream Night. The only night of the year that we can say that. At Dream Night more than any other night, we all feel a little more normal. Absent are the stares and frightened looks we’ve all grown so accustomed to. Instead there’s an understanding of our struggles, and a night to forget them. An opportunity to relax in a public space knowing that every other family there in some small way knows exactly why this night is so special.

 

So freeing.

 

So much  fun.

 

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This year we even toured the veterinary hospital in the zoo. Not lost on us was the fact that so many of our families there tonight have more than a passing knowledge of hospitals so being allowed to walk around their hospital may have been my favorite part. Ultrasounds, x-rays, and endoscopy machines exactly as we have seen them used on our own children right down to the end tidal CO2 monitor. It was surprisingly fun to see just how similar the hospital facilities at a zoo are to the hospital Liam has spent so much of his life in, which I think is exactly why they open up the veterinary hospital for this event.

 

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There were snakes named Chuck (pictured above) and Elvis, a miniature donkey named Willy, and a Gecko whose name escapes me. The giraffes and elephants were happy to enjoy their nighttime feeding in front of a crowd even though they normally eat in peace after the zoo is closed. There were no lines to wait in and not once did it feel as if Liam’s wheelchair was in anyone’s way. Even if it was. No one would have said so. We exchanged hello and knowing looks with families we’ve never met but who probably understand our life better than many of our own friends.

That is the magic of Dream Night.

 

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Photo by Karin — It’s the simple attractions like these types of photo setups that we never really get a chance to get near on a normal zoo day. It takes time and effort to get a wheelchair setup back there. One of the thousands of reasons why Dream Night means so much to us.

Only 364 more days until we can relive that magic again.

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the wonderful people who made this night possible. The CNDC at Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and all of the Roger Williams Park Zoo staff and docents. Your effort and enthusiasm are noticed and appreciated and while the Olson family will probably see you again over the summer, we already can’t wait for this time next year.

 

Editor’s Note: I was much more wordy in 2012 for Dream Night and I brought my real camera instead of just using my phone. This year I decided to not worry about pictures so much and just worry about having a great time with my boy and boy did I.

 

11 comments

  1. I had the pleasure of working at Dream Night this year, and saw your family at the animal painting give away table. I recognized you from this blog, but was afraid saying so might be awkward. I am so glad you all had such a good night!

    1. Thank you so much Nicole, both for your work last night and for reading the blog! We are members at the zoo so if you see us this summer please don’t hesitate to say hi. Never awkward to meet readers of the blog and it’s fun to introduce Liam to new friends.

  2. Glad to see that Roger Williams Sponsors this and it make me smile seeing pictures of Liam enjoying the zoo!! You are amazing parents and have a great family..Liam is a lucky boy as I know you feel you are lucky to have him too!!

    1. Thank you so much Kristen. Yeah, his mother and I are the lucky ones to have had such a great kid. Thank you for reading and for reaching out and commenting.

  3. What an absolutely wonderful experience for Liam and his great Mom & Dad. So happy that you all so enjoyed the evening.

  4. I shed a tear when I see these photos and your comments, not out of sadness but joy that Liam is experiencing such a wonderful event. Thanks for sharing the joy.

  5. Everybody is tweaking the look/feel of their blogs. Love it. And a cool adventure at the zoo.

    I was hoping we’d have had a chance to talk in the Eastern Conference Finals for hockey. Not sure how it actually works as I am just starting to get interested in it, but since the Blue Jackets are in the Metropolitan Division and the Bruins are in the Atlantic Division, would that by default mean had the Blue Jackets beaten the Penguins they would have played the Rangers, and then if they had beaten the Rangers they would have played whoever won the Atlantic Division? Which was Montreal this year, correct?

    I mean, you have to admit, Columbus is not a power market, by ANY stretch, but we are starting to play some pretty good hockey, eh? I smell a run for the cup in our future. We’ll never NOT be an Ohio State Football town, but if the CBJ continue winning, we’ll at least get some attention in another sports market here, which will help maybe to start people thinking about a possible franchise for the NBA. People don’t realize our market is actually BIGGER than Cincinnati or Cleveland.

    Sorry, I hijacked. It’s been awhile.

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