Cassidy Kingsley, 11, was full of energy as she walked into the Naples Zoo slowly, but with her head held high.
“I want to see all kinds of animals I haven’t seen before.”
Kingsley was just one of 1,500 guests at the zoo Sunday afternoon. Patients, doctors, nurses and family were able to experience very active wildlife, for free.
She tells WINK News this is an activity she rarely gets to do, since most of her time is spent at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
“I think she’s had at least 16 back surgeries alone,” said Kathy Kingsley, Cassidy’s mother.
Her daughter was born with Conradi-Hünermann syndrome, a rare disease that affects one in every 400,000 people. She is one of 30 people in the world who know they have the disease.
It affects growth of the longer bones in the body. According to the National Organization for Rare Diseases, this syndrome “is a rare genetic disorder characterized by skeletal malformations, skin abnormalities, cataracts and short stature.”
Cassidy has had multiple back surgeries, and leg extension surgery.
Her mother says they haven’t been able to enjoy a day like this in some time, and she’s thankful the zoo invited them to Dream Night.
Dream Night at the Zoo is a fun event and bonding experience for patients, families and care providers.
“I love that they do these things for the kids, and you know she’s been through so much as many of the other kids here have. So, it’s really nice that attention is drawn to them for positive and not just for being different.”
President and CEO of Naples Zoo Jack Mulvena says reactions from both patients and parents brings a smile to his face.
“It’s amazing. We had one mother tell us, ‘thank you for just letting us have a normal family night and afternoon together.’”