Knoxville Zoo makes dreams come true for Children's Hospital patients

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- For a child sick in the hospital, dreams of getting outside and enjoying life are usually out of the question, but dreams can come true with some help from the zoo.

It's called "Dreamnight at the Zoo." It's an invitation-only event for chronically ill and special needs children from the East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

Lisa New, Executive Director of the Knoxville Zoo, says, "This is such an important event for us! We love the fact that we can provide a night of family fun and help better our community."

More than 500 kids and their families came out to the zoo after hours and enjoyed up close and personal meeting with animal ambassadors, including a rat named Taylor, a bunny, and a flock of different birds.

For the families it was more than a night out at the zoo, it was a time to spend together as a family.

Tiffany Lale explains, "Our son was diagnosed with Leukemia on March 24 of this year. We've been in and out of the hospital focusing all our time and energy on getting him better."

Her son, Jaxon, has been going through chemotherapy and it's taken a toll on his young body.

"He has constant joint pain, he's lost all his hair and his immune system is severely weakened," says Tiffany.

While those are all common side effects of chemotherapy, for a young adventurous five-year-old, it's been difficult acting and feeling like a kid.

"We can't do things like we use to. Going to McDonald's, the grocery store, the park, basically anywhere he could pick up germs is off limits." Tiffany says.

This event is different because all the kids are from Children's Hospital and it's closed off to the general public.

"He's able to get out and touch things, experience things-- it's amazing to be here with the entire family. I feel like I have my son back," says Tiffany

It's a special night the Knoxville Zoo is happy to help with says Lisa, "The zoo is about making memories and smiles especially for kids that wouldn't usually be able to make it out to see everything the zoo has to offer."

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