There is a rightly popular charity event that has grown up and come of age before our very eyes while conquering half the world and becoming an integral part of the world of zoos. A cavalcade of a particular feeling, a lot of merriment and heartfelt and selfless moments: this is Dreamnight (at the Zoo)!
The story began 18 years ago when Peter van der Wulp, a keeper at Rotterdam Zoo presented his revolutionary idea to the director of the zoo. His idea was that the zoo should organise an exclusive, special evening programme for diseased children, bringing colour to their everyday life that was otherwise often rather grey. His concept did not only captivate the director but also enlisted the aid of all the workers and supporters of the zoo. Roused by the initial positive reception, the first event was held that year. The cancer patients of Sophia Children’s Hospital and their relatives were invited, 175 people altogether. The initiative turned out a major success and it became a regular programme of the zoo in the following years.
According to the mission of the Dreamnight, any institution or organisation (now not only zoos) that takes on to organise a free and exclusive event for chronically ill children and their relatives, may join the initiative. The time of the event is preferably the first Friday of June (or possibly December) every year, it is carried out from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. throughout the world.
The calling of the programme is to make the life of seriously ill children somewhat better, to help them in their healing process and to give them strength for their everyday struggles. Of course, the organisers count on the participation of the relatives (parents, siblings) as well, so they can live the joyous moments together. The children could not participate in a similar event on other days or occassions because of the circumstances, but these hours are about them, and only them!
Thus, the invited children and their families can take part in a really unique and special programme where they can really feel like VIP guests. They can take a glimpse behind the scenes, meet the keepers and get acquainted with the furry, feathery and scaly inhabitants of the zoo at close quarters. The evening is made whole by various vivid and entertaining programme elements.
It is important to emphasize that the organisers and implementers participate in the work voluntarily in their free time. Catering and several surprises are often provided by firms and organisations. This is a real social cooperation that perfectly demonstrates the diversity and social participation represented by the zoos of the world.
There are zoos where the workers of each department award certificates for their most creative or active colleagues and often the number of volunteers applying for taking part in the evening programme exceeds the number needed many times. The event is more popular than ever...
Partners and milestones:
Rotterdam was followed by Amsterdam in 2000 and four other Dutch institutions a year later. The first partners outside The Netherlands (Antwerpen and Aalborg) held the event in 2002, a dozen zoos offered an enchanting evening for diseased children by this time. Another year later (in 2003) the first institutions outside Europe joined, namely Magnetic Hill Zoo and Vancouver Aquarium, both in Canada. The very busy year 2004 saw the first non-zoo participants join: Attractionpark Neeltje Jans (The Netherlands) and Freme Marcel Dhenin (France).
The most busy year was 2005, it brought the most new members. By now 264 institutions from 37 countries of 5 continents have joined Dreamnight from North and Central America to Europe, Africa, Asia and the Australian archipelago.
If we consider that the various international zoo organisations (AZA, WAZA, EAZA, ZAA, etc...) have more than a thousand active and full members nowadays, it is clear that there are a lot of potential future partners. We can only encourage them to join this selfless programme that brings so many fantastic zoo moments!
Further information (and an opportunity to join) can be found on the recently renewed site of the organisation (www.dreamnightatthezoo.nl) where – commendably – all the necessary information can be found in five languages (Dutch, German, English, French and Spanish). Another strength of the site is that direct links point to the web pages of the participating institutions. The „Dreamnight at the Zoo song” and the „Dreamnight song” can be accessed by anyone on the site of the foundation as real specialities.
Should there be anyone who, despite knowing all this, has not yet joined the project, please do it now, since the most genuine and touching zoo moments can be caught at the Dreamnight!