A Walk on the Wild Side

How an MSD emergency response team gives chronically ill and special needs children a 'Dreamnight at the Zoo.'

With sirens blaring, the emergency van from our Haarlem site in the Netherlands joined a convoy of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars moving through the bustling streets of Amsterdam. The fleet was on an important mission: To transport chronically ill children to the Artis Zoo for a special event known as “Dreamnight at the Zoo.”

“It is enormous fun for the children and the drivers,” says John de Wit, a senior tech of Automation Operations, who has transported children to the event since 2012. “Everybody is waving at us, and the kids are smiling and cheering. They are so excited about the ride and the zoo.”

Dreamnight is an annual event held at hundreds of zoos around the world on the first Friday in June or December, depending on the zoo’s location. Today, more than 500 zoos host Dreamnight to bring joy to children who otherwise would not have the chance to make faces at marsupials, gaze at gazelles or touch turtles.

A team effort makes Dreamnight possible

John and his colleague Raymond van Bakel are among approximately 1,500 volunteers from the Amsterdam area who make Dreamnight possible. As members of MSD’s emergency response team, Raymond and John work closely with the Amsterdam fire department to organize MSD’s role.

John transports up to seven children at a time during the procession. “These are children who may be hooked up to IVs, in wheelchairs or have developmental disabilities. It would be very difficult for their parents to take their kids to the zoo," he notes.

Taking part in volunteering activities

Colleagues at our Haarlem site also participate in a variety of other volunteer opportunities throughout the year, such as taking care of a local children’s farm populated with peacocks, chickens and small farm animals. Volunteers also take part in efforts that help the elderly and support the Red Cross. They even manage traffic for community events.

“We have a large number of employees here. When you take part in team volunteering activities, you have an opportunity to meet people you may never speak to at work,” says John. “But after you’ve teamed up with a colleague to repair a road so that goats can walk across it or to clean out a chicken coop, when you see that individual at work you’re excited to grab a cup of coffee and have some great conversations.”

MSD Gives Back

Our company provides eligible employees with up to 40 hours of paid time off annually to volunteer in activities that support eligible nonprofit organizations. Visit MSD Gives Back to learn more.