Leading the Way

Partner Profile: Dreamnight at the Chattanooga Zoo

Partner Profile: Dreamnight, presented by the Chattanooga Zoo and Chattanooga Therapeutic Recreation Services

Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Mission: The mission of Chattanooga Therapeutic Recreation Services is to provide leisure and recreation opportunities for citizens of all abilities. As part of this mission, Therapeutic Recreation partners with the Chattanooga Zoo and Unum each year to host Dreamnight, a special, free opportunity for children and individuals with disabilities and their families to visit the zoo and take advantage of special games and interactions.

Why does Unum support Dreamnight? For families facing disabilities, a simple trip to the zoo can be complicated. Logistics of travel, not to mention the challenges your destination might present, and financial difficulty can make outings like this impossible. The Chattanooga Zoo provides the perfect setting for Therapeutic Recreation to create additional special experiences for attendees. It’s this partnership plus volunteer support from Unum that allows Dreamnight to happen.

“Dreamnight aligns directly with our mission,” said Elaine Adams, Therapeutic Recreation Division Program Coordinator. “It’s not just an opportunity to create a special environment, but I see valuable interactions taking place between parents and caregivers. It can be difficult to build and maintain a social network if you’re living with a disability. Dreamnight is a perfect environment to see friends and make new friends.”

How does Unum support Dreamnight? Unum’s support of Dreamnight has continued over several years. Employee volunteers staff the entire event, including set-up, food and drink stations, adaptive games, character costumes and interacting with attendees to make the night special. This year, around 80 employees volunteered for the nearly 600 guests. Tanya Knox, coordinator of Unum volunteers at Dreamnight, said the event was as rewarding as ever.

“Many of our employee volunteers come back every single year for Dreamnight,” said Tanya. “I would guess that 85-90% of this year’s volunteers were second-timers. Some volunteers even bring spouses or teenage children to help. I think we get just as much out of it, if not more, than the attendees do.”

What impact has it had on Dreamnight? While Unum supplies the volunteer power behind Dreamnight, it’s the passion of the volunteers that makes the night even more meaningful.

“At one point this year, there were volunteers at one of the game stations who had reached their time to be relieved by another group,” said Elaine. “They had a line of families and said, ‘We aren’t leaving yet.’ That says a lot; not only about Unum employees’ support, but their commitment to give back to the community and offer their time.”

Read more about Unum’s support of healthier communities in the 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report.

 

Photo credit: Chattanooga Zoo