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NEWS | June 6, 2018

Exceptional Family Member Program hosts “Dream Night” at the zoo

By Airman 1st Class Helena B. Owens Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston’s Exceptional Family Member Program hosted "Dream Night" for families enrolled in the program June 1, 2018, at the Charles Town Landing Zoo. This is the fifth year in a row that the base has participated in the event. The purpose of “Dream Night” is for EFMP children and their families to enjoy a night at the zoo without the distractions of other guests as well as get a chance to have one-on-one time with the exhibits and zookeepers.

Children and families from the EFMP were able to enter the zoo after hours and take a self-guided tour around the park. Volunteers at each exhibit informed families about each animal and their significance to the zoo.

“My favorite part was the buzzard," said Johnathan, a member of the EFMP. “I liked when he spread his wings out and flapped them.”

Along the pathway of the animal exhibits was a classroom where families could ask questions to learn about the different species' and even spend time with a dog brought in by one of the volunteers.

“Events like these are wonderful,” said Col. Rockie Wilson, 628th Mission Support Group commander. “It gives us a chance to get together with families who have similar challenges and build a network between us.”

Part of the Air Mobility Command’s mission is to retain families and provide them with an effective support structure, such as military and family readiness centers, family housing, child care and many more resources. One of those is the EFMP, which is designed to provide support to families with children who have special needs or disabilities.

“The program is designed to allow service members to be stationed where the needs of the family members can be met,” said Reta Mills, JB Charleston’s EFMP coordinator. “It ensures that families stay together as well as the mission getting done.”

An exceptional family member is one who is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System and has a diagnosed physical, intellectual or emotional-psychological condition, which requires ongoing, specialized medical or educational services.

“We advocate for families who have children in school systems that may need special considerations for their school work,” said Mills. “That is really what the program is all about, providing support from medical services to educational services.”

Volunteers and workers at the Charles Town Landing Zoo helped put together this “Dream Night” as a way to give back and show support for the community.

“I ran across this event online and it is held internationally,” said Jillian Davis, Charles Town Landing Zoo animal forest curator. “I really wanted to get involved in something that gave back to the kids. I wanted them to have an exceptional moment and have it after hours so they could really feel special.”