Night Owls Respite Program

Please note: The Night Owls program is postponed until further notice. We look forward to continuing in the near future. Please call the front desk with any questions 303-871-2723 as the Night Owls email is not frequently checked.


What is Night Owls?

On the first Friday night of each month, trained volunteers provide an evening of individualized care and fun for children with special needs and their siblings, ages 1 month through 12 years, at the Fisher Early Learning Center on the University of Denver campus.

The children participate in a wide range of activities according to each child’s interests. We pair up 1 child & 1 volunteer by matching their needs, abilities, play style, and experience.  A nurse is on-site at all times to assist with any medical needs that may arise during the evening. In addition, DU's security team monitors the Center throughout each evening. The evening is free of charge to the families attending.

Attendees may be children with special needs and their siblings from the greater Denver community. Volunteers are often comprised of DU students enrolled in various programs, including MCE, SW, and GSSP graduate programs as well as CU graduate students from their PT program. Some may be community members, ranging from DU professors and students to young professionals to retired citizens to people in the neighborhood who are eager to help.

How Does it Work?

Families must pre-register prior to their first Night Owls evening. This allows the Night Owls team to pair the child(ren) with the appropriate volunteers and plan activities accordingly. The completed forms allow the team to know the children before they arrive. Parents/caregivers may drop their children off at 6:00 p.m. and pick them up at 9:00 p.m. (or anytime in between).

A remarkable aspect of Night Owls is that each child has their own “special friend” for the night; one-on-one attention from one of the volunteers for the whole evening! The volunteer for each child will greet the families as they arrive and parents will have an opportunity to share unique information about their child(ren) that will ensure their safety and enjoyment for the evening. At this time, parents will also have an opportunity to go over special instructions regarding medication or special procedures for their children with a nurse.

Activities for the evening range from art to music to sensory and motor activities. While some activities may be preplanned based on a theme or a volunteer's specialty, there is flexibility within each activity. Children may move from room to room with their adult friend as they choose. A few times a year, we have visits from one or two wonderful therapy dogs courtesy of the American Humane Association. The evening winds down with child-appropriate movies. 

We ask parents to bring their children's water bottles. Food is not provided for the children during Night Owls, but parents may bring food and drinks if they wish. Please remember that the Fisher Early Learning Center is Allergy Aware center. Please refrain from bringing any items containing tree nuts, sesame, and coconut.  Parents are also welcome to bring their children’s pajamas, change of clothes, diaper bags, etc. as needed.

For questions or more information, please email:

Support Night Owls

While the Fisher Early Learning Center at the University of Denver generously donates its space and materials to Night Owls, Night Owls receives no University money for the continuation of this program. Private donations alone fund Night Owls evenings.

For this wonderful, essential program to continue indefinitely, Night Owls needs private donations, which are tax-deductible. You can send a check made out to the Fisher Early Learning Center, with "Night Owls" in the memo line to the address below. Please put it to the attention of: Night Owls Program Coordinator.

You may also contact us at for more information on how to contribute to this program. Thank you!