News Release

February 24, 2015

National Inclusion Project and the Chicago Zoological Society Become Let’s All Play Partners
To benefit Zoo Campers with special needs, including physical disabilities, autism, sensory processing disorders, and attention deficit disorders

Brookfield, Ill. – The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) has partnered with the National Inclusion Project this year to implement a training program titled Let’s All Play that will enable Zoo Camp staff at Brookfield Zoo to better serve children with disabilities.

“Through this partnership, we will train our Zoo Camp staff members in inclusion techniques, expand our camp staff to include a counselor experienced in working with children with special needs in informal settings, and provide Zoo Camp scholarships for children with disabilities,” said Dave Becker, senior manager of learning experiences for the Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.

Zoo Camp, which is accredited by the American Camp Association, serves 1,700 children each summer. Campers ages 4 to 14, divided into five groups by the latest completed school grade, explore animals and the natural world in fun, engaging, and age-appropriate settings through activities, encounters, games, art, and science inquiry. An estimated 6 percent of all Zoo Campers have special needs, including physical disabilities, autism, sensory processing disorders, and attention deficit disorders. The Let’s All Play curriculum will train staff to assess and respond to situations with campers and facilitate interactions between campers with and without disabilities. Additionally, CZS will hire a Zoo Camp counselor to work with children with disabilities, including campers with more profound disabilities.

“We believe our partnership with the Chicago Zoological Society will get us one step closer to making the inclusion of children with disabilities the expectation and not the exception,” says Jerry Aiken, executive director of the National Inclusion Project.

As a final component of the National Inclusion Project partnership, CZS staff will work with local organizations that serve children with disabilities to identify potential participants for Zoo Camp this summer. Up to 10 children with disabilities will be offered one-week scholarships of up to $250 to enable them to fully participate in Zoo Camp.

“We are dedicated to building and strengthening inclusion initiatives zoowide, and the Let’s All Play partnership will enable our camp staff to better serve our campers with disabilities,” Becker added. “We receive more inquiries about Zoo Camp every year as more families have become aware of the Chicago Zoological Society’s capacity to work with children with special needs. This partnership will allow all children, regardless of ability, to learn about animals and become conservation leaders.”
About the Chicago Zoological Society
The Chicago Zoological Society inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for Brookfield Zoo's innovative, naturalistic, multispecies exhibits and for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. For further information, visit
About the National Inclusion Project
The National Inclusion Project was cofounded in 2003 by entertainer Clay Aiken and serves to bridge the gap that exists between young people with disabilities and the world around them.  By driving the movement for social inclusion in after-school programs, summer camps, and community-based activities, children of all abilities learn, play, and laugh together. Over the last 12 years, the Project has provided training, curriculum, and support to YMCAs, JCCs, Boys & Girls Clubs, 4H, CampFire USA, Kids Museums, zoos, and other community organizations looking to become inclusive or enhance their inclusive programs. For more information on the National Inclusion Project and to help ensure no child sits on the sidelines, visit their website at

#      #      #


Sondra Katzen
Public Relations
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


Center for Animal Welfare

Read about our innovative practices in animal welfare to ensure the ultimate care of our individual animals.

Classes and Camps

Conservation Leadership

We place a high priority on developing and supporting conservation leaders of all ages and backgrounds.


Visit Brookfield Zoo

Create extraordinary connections with animals and nature!

Animal Welfare

You Can Help!

Become our partner in caring for animals and in connecting people with wildlife and nature.