BLU Invites Guests to Dive Deeper Into Shedd Aquarium

July 27, 2014

Annual Auxiliary Board Event Draws Nearly 800 Guests, Raises $318,000 for Education and Conservation Initiatives

CHICAGO — Chicago’s young philanthropists gathered July 26 to raise more than $318,000 during Shedd Aquarium’s annual Auxiliary Board soirée, BLU. The Brazilian-themed “festa” celebrated the aquarium’s Amazon Rising exhibit, which takes guests on a journey through the year on the Amazon River floodplain. BLU Co-Chairs Julie Canna, Laura Micheli and Jon Pfeffer, along with the 60-member Auxiliary Board, shared their passion for Shedd’s education and conservation initiatives with nearly 800 guests at one of Chicago’s premier summer fundraising fêtes.

The evening began in the aquarium’s Abbott Oceanarium and on the North Terrace, both featuring décor donated by Event Creative and Drape Kings. Partygoers enjoyed Martín Códax wine and beer from the Lagunitas Brewing Company among the natural beauty of the animals and the Chicago skyline. During cocktail hour, guests visited the Hydration Station where they learned more about the aquarium’s Great Lakes programs and pledged to work alongside Shedd experts to conserve water and help protect the lakes for future generations. Partygoers could also document and share their pledge at a portable “selfie” station that appeared throughout the event to capture the fun and excitement of the evening.

For the first time at BLU, guests were treated to an aquatic show emceed by Shedd’s Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Training Ken Ramirez. The audience was surprised and delighted as Pacific white-sided dolphins, beluga whales and the aquarium’s rescue dogs demonstrated the “Shedd Way” of training and highlighted the interconnectedness of the living world. During the performance, guests also participated in an inaugural paddle raise to support Shedd’s community access program for school children, first-responders, military personnel and veterans, teachers and others. As the aquatic show came to a close, the sound of traditional Brazilian music filled the air as Chicago Samba performers made a surprise appearance. The entertainers escorted guests out of the Oceanarium and upstairs to the original galleries, where they performed throughout the night and provided guests with Brazilian dance instruction.

Diving deeper into Shedd, guests were invited to explore the Amazon Rising exhibit and its more than 245 species of animals. Partygoers mingled with Shedd’s aquarists and research biologists as they saw firsthand how their ticket purchase supports animal care, conservation and education. From discussing threatened arapaima in Guyana, to debunking myths about piranhas, to meeting a stingray matchmaker, attendees were offered an exclusive look at how Shedd lives its mission of connecting people to the living world and inspiring them to make a difference.

While they explored the exhibits, partygoers sampled tastings from more than 30 of Chicago’s premier restaurants, including Adobo braised pork belly from Sunda; McCormick and Schmick’s jumbo lump crab cakes topped with fire-roasted corn salsa; and BBQ pulled pork sliders from Theory. Guests in the VIP Samba Lounge enjoyed Calabrian mahi mahi tacos garnished with lemon crema and avocado from Travelle; Hawaiian-style roasted pork sliders with cole slaw and taro mayo from Jellyfish; and Right Bite-approved oysters on the half shell from Shaw’s Crab House.

While noshing and sipping spirits from Koval, guests used their smartphones to electronically bid on an array of silent auction items, including a private yacht cruise on Lake Michigan, Wrigley Field skybox tickets and a luxury Las Vegas vacation. Powered by Auctions by Cellular, this online auction allowed guests to bid at their convenience before and during the event, raising funds to support Shedd’s education and conservation initiatives.

Once the sun had set on Lake Michigan, the beats of DJ Nix drew partygoers to the Sick Family Lakeside Terrace where they danced the night away against a backdrop of fireworks. Guests were also invited to indulge their sweet tooth in the late-night lounge with treats from Seasons 52, More Cupcakes, Vanille Patisserie and Garrett’s Popcorn. For dancing feet that had yet to grow weary, guests were transported to an after-party sponsored by Radisson Aqua BLU Chicago, concluding the eventful evening. 

“We’re thrilled our Auxiliary Board continues to successfully inspire Chicago’s young philanthropists to support Shedd Aquarium,” said Shedd President and CEO Ted A. Beattie. “The critical funds raised through events like BLU allow Shedd to share the wonders of the aquarium with thousands of school children each the year, provide exceptional care to its 32,000 animals, and support conservation efforts around the world.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: BLU photos, a caption sheet and other resources can be found on Shedd’s FTP site:

Shedd Aquarium is supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District. Shedd Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).

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