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Sold-Out Gala Raises Record Amount for Shedd Aquarium's Conservation Research, Education and Animal Care Efforts

700+ Attendees Pledged More Than Ever Before in the History of this Event

November 03, 2022

Artwork Thrive white logo on red background surrounded by coral.

CHICAGO — Chicago’s philanthropic community broke records on Saturday, Oct. 1, raising nearly $2.2 million at Shedd Aquarium’s black-tie gala event. The sold-out event – titled THRIVE – centered around the importance of coral reefs and Shedd’s ongoing coral research, raising money to support the aquarium’s broad conservation, education and animal care efforts. The energizing and immersive evening marks the return of the annual Board of Trustees Gala after a nearly three-year pause at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gala co-chairs Brian Kenney, Kristin Longley, John Holmes and Jenni Sorenson planned an evening that was captivating and motivating, with pop-up animal encounters alongside elegant décor that exemplified the vibrancy and biodiversity of coral reefs. A moving, coral-focused aquatic presentation preceded an active paddle raise that helped make this evening one of the most successful fundraising galas in Shedd’s history.

“The nearly three years since our last gala has been punctuated by major developments in how Shedd delivers its mission and what our future holds,” said Shedd President and CEO Dr. Bridget Coughlin. “This historic display of generosity comes at a momentous time for the aquarium as we embark on a new strategic vision – our Centennial Commitment - that promises to accelerate access and connection to nature for all. We are thankful for these contributions from our community that demonstrate confidence in our ambitions and will help to shape a more equitable, sustainable and thriving future for people and aquatic life.”

Attendees began their evening entering the building through Shedd’s gardens to the accompaniment of a band performing in full wet suits. Photo opportunities abounded as guests entered the building, grabbed a drink and came eye to eye with several animal ambassadors. Sea otter feedings, hors d’oeuvres, specialty cocktails and lakeside views of the city tantalized and entertained before the aquatic presentation and paddle raise.

Following the successful paddle raise, attendees sat down for a multi-course dinner surrounded by aquatic wonder in the aquarium’s historic galleries. After dinner, conservation research and animal care staff demonstrated scientific tools they use in the field and in the laboratory to actively study and safeguard coral. Later, the dance floor opened, with live music, drinks and late-night treats closing out the evening.

Event vendor details: Décor and floral arrangements by Revel Décor; music throughout the evening provided by Black Bear Combo, the Chicago Gay Mens’ Chorus, and Mix Tape; custom coral-themed performers by Cabinet of Curiosity Events; dinner catered by Sodexo and dessert by Adalina.

THRIVE is presented in part by benefactor sponsors: AbbVie, Bank of America, Brunswick, GATX, John Holmes and Jenni Sorenson/AAR, Anne and Gregory Jones, Anna and Bob Livingston, Brian Kenney and Kristin Longley.

VISUALS: Gala photos and videos can be viewed and downloaded here:

Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium