Dream Day 2019: Families Enjoy Safari On Sunny Day

Tye Chandler :
Posted December 9, 2019

While the weather has not always been kind when Dream Day comes around at Fossil Rim annually in early December, Mother Nature was cooperative on December 6 in 2019.

The arrival for the Silva and Avant/Crawson families may have been a bit chilly in the morning, but the sun soon ensured that they could enjoy lovely conditions and concentrate on fun times with each other. Dream Day is an occasion where Fossil Rim hosts families that have been dealing with some sort of adversity.

Each year, Fossil Rim staff and members of the local community gather in the morning to welcome the Dream Day families and wish them well on their guided tour.

The Silva family, including children Ryan and Reagan, were visiting from China Spring. Ryan overcame a brain aneurysm earlier in 2019 and was clearly enjoying his visit for Dream Day.

“We are friends with a family here in Glen Rose, and they nominated us,” said Rebecca Silva. “Their daughter is also a brain aneurysm survivor. We got the phone call from (Fossil Rim Director of Development) Jennifer (Smith) about Dream Day.”

The Avant/Crawson family, including children John, Jordan, and Teagan, made the trip from Laguna Park. Their daughter, Lily, recently passed away.

Four-year-old Reagan Silva leaves no doubt about who Santa’s best buddy in the whole world is. She even ate lunch beside him at Foothills Safari Camp.

“We were nominated; I’m not sure by who, and Jennifer reached out to us,” said Laci Avant. “I was actually here before on a field trip with Lily. The adversity we’ve faced has brought us closer together as a family.”

Fossil Rim staff gathered at the Admission Center in the morning with the families, as Santa Claus (Dan Broyles), Mrs. Claus (Shirley Smith), and The Elf (Sara Paulsen) made their grand entrance via a Somervell County Fire Department truck. From there, the families hopped into a tour van with Tour Guide Beverly White leading them on a multi-pasture adventure.

With a morning chill still in the air as the tour begins, siblings John and Jordan Avant bundle up in the tour vehicle.

An ostrich eating feed pellets placed Hansel and Gretel trail-style along the vehicle’s edge was one of the morning’s first big hits, after meeting Santa, of course. In the Buffer Pasture, a bongo antelope actually wandered up to the edge of the vehicle for some food pellets, which does not happen too often.

“I have never seen the bongo approach the vehicle, other than an evening tour,” said White. “There’s something magical about Dream Day, and you never know what you’ll see at Fossil Rim. Each year I’ve helped with Dream Day has been significantly different than any other, but it’s always a happy time, a special time, and meaningful for these families to be able to come out and enjoy each other and the healing properties of nature.

Tour Guide Beverly White, shown giving her fourth Dream Day tour, wants to always be part of the event, no matter what role that might entail.
Dream Day guests are treated to a rare daytime tour vehicle visit from a mountain bongo.
Teagan Avant gets a kick out of this ostrich’s rapid food pellet inhalation.

“That’s my favorite part of Fossil Rim. We turned (nature’s) air conditioner off, and now it feels really good today.”

From the resident sandhill cranes to Arabian oryx, to the giraffes, seemingly all the animals were out and about to welcome the Dream Day group.

“I think it was Lily who was bringing all the animals to us,” said Rebecca about the daughter of her new friend, Laci.

Ryan Silva makes some enrichment items at the Children’s Animal Center with the help of The Elf, Sara Paulsen.

At the Children’s Animal Center, the children made enrichment items for the goats, birds, and the resident ram. Filled with treats, the “presents” were enthusiastically opened by the animals. The children got to see the resident black-footed cats and had a close encounter with a corn snake, among other things.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing (Reagan) experience all of this,” White said of the inquisitive four-year-old. “Her spirit of adventure and curiosity – if we could all approach life like that. She’s not shy about anything. Look how bold she was with the corn snake; she’s adventurous, for sure.

It is party time for the Children’s Animal Center residents, as they receive all of these enrichment items.

“I love so many things at Fossil Rim, but Dream Day has grown into something I want to participate in any way I can.”

The group headed to the Foothills Safari Camp for a lunch of hamburgers, pizza, chicken tenders, and cupcakes in the glass-walled pavilion. Reagan, of course, ate lunch by her buddy, Santa, after they rode together throughout the tour.

The Dream Day parents stood up in front of the group and thanked everyone for their generosity.

Mrs. Claus, aka Shirley Smith, and Reagan Silva enjoy some quality time with “Nigel” the corn snake.
Ryan Silva feeds a giraffe in the Game Preserve pasture.

“We love this,” Rebecca said. “We were actually here in June, and now we’re back. We are seeing even more animals today, now that it’s cooler. The staff has done a great job with this.

“We feel honored to be here, as well as excited. You just take one day at a time and hope for the best. Every day is different; you stay strong and pray.”

The Dream Day family parents speak during lunchtime about how thankful they are to be the honored guests.

“This is amazing,” Laci added. “Our kids definitely needed a day like this after what we’ve been through. It’s an honor to be here, and we appreciate it so much.”

Dinosaur Valley State Park Superintendent Kelby Bridwell was among the group enjoying lunch together. Dinosaur Valley staff helped provide some of the presents that the children opened after lunch, and the state park is a longtime sponsor of the Dream Day events.

Mrs. Claus is caught by surprise when the guests of honor turn the tables on her with a floral gift.

“I think it’s amazing what (Fossil Rim) does for Dream Day,” Bridwell said. “I’ve been here for it the last several years. Usually, we spend most of the day with the families and help with some of the craft activities. It’s one of those times we look forward to every year.

“We are all about giving back to the community and supporting families in need. We try to have these families visit Dinosaur Valley later in the year.

“Potentially, we’ll give them a private tour of our park and make it an extension of Dream Day. It’s cool to see all the folks in the Glen Rose community come together to support these families.”

Before the families headed back out on tour to wrap up their visit, they headed out to get some photos in Chris Paulsen’s zebra-striped truck.

Development Administrative Officer Karen Adams was one of the people working behind the scenes to ensure that all details of the day were addressed.

Before heading back out to wrap up their guided tour, the Dream Day families pose for some photos at Foothills Safari Camp.

“It takes teamwork from several different departments – development, marketing, lodging, tours, and support services – to pull Dream Day together,” Adams said. “That also goes for the local community and our Dream Day sponsors – LDL Educational Resources Foundation, Glen Rose Medical Center, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Best Western, and United Cooperative Services. Also, companies that donated gifts and gift certificates included Christian Brothers Automotive, David’s Supermarket, Grumps, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Dinosaur World, Whole Heart Offerings, Walmart, Glen Rose Police Department, Dinosaur Valley State Park, and Practically Picasso in Waco.

“We work to save species here with the help of our guests and donors, and Dream Day is our way of giving back. The whole community comes together to make it happen.”

Executive Director Kelley Snodgrass, who has given the Dream Day tour during some years, is always proud of the teamwork by the staff to ensure the families enjoy their visit.

“We want to give a sincere thank you to the Avant and Silva families for sharing their Dream Day with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, The Elf, our sponsors, and the whole Fossil Rim community,” he said. “It was an honor and privilege that we cherish to spend this day with them.”

(Look below for many more photos.) 

-Tye Chandler, Marketing Associate 

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