“Dare to dream” could well be the slogan of the Vancouver Aquarium’s annual Dreamnight. It’s the most special of special events for Aquarium staff and volunteers, more than 160 of whom eagerly donate their time to create the most marvellous night possible for kids with chronic or life-threatening diseases and their families.
This year’s event was a huge success. Almost 1,000 people attended Dreamnight 2019 on Wednesday, May 1.
Lindsay Baker, manager of volunteer services at the Aquarium, has coordinated staff and volunteers for Dreamnight for eight years. She said her favourite aspect of Dreamnight is that it allows children with serious health concerns to “just be kids, enjoy the magic of the Aquarium, and have a fun night out with their families.”
On May 1, greeters armed with big smiles and aquatic puppets met guests in the parking lot to offer them a cheerful welcome. The warmth in the Aquarium was unmistakeable, with crowd-pleasing magic conjured up by Graham Kita (“the Magic Guy”), free face-painting, and the cuddly friendliness of eight mascots, including the Aquarium’s Ollie the Sea Otter, Fin the Killer Whale from the Canucks, the VPD’s Chip and Nitro, Bob Brown Bear from the Canadians baseball team, the RCMP’s Safety Bear, Starry, from the Starlight Children’s Foundation of Canada, and Hartley, who represents Variety – The Children’s Charity.
Interpreters, trainers, curators and scientists regaled the children with stimulating tales about the creatures of the deep. Of course, it was the opportunity to visit the Aquarium’s fascinating residents that truly set Dreamnight apart from any other happy children’s party. Whether a child was transfixed by our graceful jellies or entranced by Señor Cinco, a California sea lion, dazzled by our sea otters, or thrilled by touching local marine invertebrates in our Wet Lab, he or she had the opportunity to personally connect with our undersea world.
The Aquarium brimmed with the usual free treats that attendees of this event have come to love — White Spot burgers, snacks and soft-serve ice cream.
The accessible galleries of the Vancouver Aquarium are always an ideal spot for these kids and their families – like all kids and their families — to forget any troubles and connect with the aquatic world. Dreamnight simply amps up the festivities and makes them the focus for one special night.
Reviews after the event were positive.
“Dreamnight is one of our families’ favourite events of the year,” said Debbie Bielech, Executive Director, Children’s Organ Transplant Society. “I know how much work goes into planning these large-scale events. Every little detail was well-planned and the volunteers and staff were fantastic.”
Evonne Lau, of Variety — The Children’s Charity, thanked the Aquarium for inviting the charity’s families to Dreamnight. “Many of them emailed to tell us what a great time they had,” she said. “There was one family in particular who had not been to the Aquarium in 13 years. Their daughter had a wonderful time … enjoying an ice cream, meeting with the mascots, and they were so grateful for the White Spot meal.”
Baker was struck by the excitement of the children as they streamed into the parking lot after the event, chattering about the “awesome” time they’d had. She’s always been told how much the event means to the families, and how much they appreciate the event’s sponsors, as well as the Aquarium’s staff and volunteers. Vancouver families look forward to Dreamnight, she said, and many come back year after year.
We’re grateful ourselves to the community organizations that collaborate with us on this truly special occasion, including B.C. Children’s Hospital, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, Children’s Heart Network, Children’s Organ Transplant Society, Children’s Wish Foundation, Lower Mainland Down Syndrome Society, Ronald McDonald House B.C., Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada, Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, The Upside Down Play Group and Variety – The Children’s Charity.
We are also deeply appreciative of Dreamnight’s sponsors and supporters. This year, they included:
Brett Vo Photography
Canucks Sports & Entertainment
Coca Cola Canada
Graham Kita, The Magic Guy
Limelight Foods of Canada Ltd.
Lorand Szasz Photography
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Salt Spring Coffee
Spencer the Sea Lion
Tee Pee Handicrafts Ltd.
Vancouver Canadians Baseball Club
Vancouver Police Department
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
White Spot Limited
Thanks to all concerned for making this a Dreamnight for the ages – until next year’s spectacular event.