A non-profit called Open Doors Tennessee is committed to providing resources for people with disabilites.
Time at the Knoxville Zoo supports that mission.
Visitors know the animals by name after a week-long "Connect Camp" at the Knoxville Zoo.
"It's super fun and awesome!" camper Christian Rice said.
The camp is part of Open Doors Tennessee.
"We have everything from Down Syndrome to Autism to intellectual disabilies so it's a wide range," Open Doors Tennessee Founder Steve Johnson said.
Steve Johnson and his wife started Open Doors Tennessee when they couldn't find social activities for their son William.
"And eight years later here we are. We're on our 4th zoo camp and we've done five camps this summer and two new events also started this summer so we've been really blessed. It's been a great thing for everybody," Johnson said.
Everybody includes 11-year-old Christian Rice.
"I'm excited to be here and it's pretty cool," he said.
His mother is Christi Rice. She says Open Doors has been a blessing for two of her sons, Christian and Wesley.
"The network that Open Doors provides has given us a whole new world of families and friends and people who know... unfortunatly in the disability world you have to know somebody who knows something and so Steve and Open Doors has really been that for us," Christi Rice said.
Steve Johnson said. "You're only as good as your volunteers and luckily I found other parents with a big heart that have donated their time to start a lot of these programs."
Christian made some new friends at camp.
"Yes I have. Brian, his name is Brian. And we've been hanging out all week," he said.
Brian especially likes the elephants.
"Edie was squirting water," Brian Ferrell said. "She's reaching up top to get the hay with her trunk."
Christi Rice said, "There's something about being with their peers that is really comforting."
She's seen her sons blossom during the camp.
"It's a really big deal to watch them. My son Wesley usually runs when he hears music, he runs when he hears a lot of noise. Here he has actually asked for Mr. Bob to play the guitar. He has asked him to sing. It's just priceless," she said.
It's been a priceless experience for Christian. He gave a shout-out to his mom.
"She pushes me to do cool things.And I just want to thank her and I want to thank my brother Wesley, my brother Patrick, and my sister who all make this happen," he said.
Open Doors Tennessee makes life better for people with disabilities.