On July 27, over 900 of Chicago’s wildlife enthusiasts and socialites came together at Shedd Aquarium for the sold-out signature fundraising fête, BLU, to make a difference for the aquatic animals everywhere. Hosted by Shedd Aquarium’s Auxiliary Board and Co-Chairs, Caroline Conese, Ronak Danak, and Dana Waud Floberg, the event raised more than $330,000 from generous sponsors, donors and attendees to support Shedd’s ongoing sustainability, conservation and rescue efforts for aquatic wildlife around the globe and for the animals that call Shedd home. This year’s theme, “Out of the BLU” focused heavily on helping guests keep litter out of our waterways and away from landfills and instead reallocate as much waste as possible generated throughout the evening with the help of the aquarium’s robust composting and recycling programs.
VIP guests kicked off the event an hour early and had the aquarium to themselves, though many chose to spend their time at the private lounge, presented by Citadel, on the North Terrace with a backdrop of an unbeatable view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. In this one-of-a-kind setting, there were opportunities to come face-to-face with Shedd’s Magellanic penguins in Shedd’s North Lobby and enjoy a private acoustic performance from Daniel Wade outside while sipping on drinks provided by Heaven’s Door Whiskeys served in compostable cups.
As the celebration got underway, guests began their night walking through the main entrance, adorned by 10-foot octopus tentacles for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity. In the main foyer, artists from Ink Factory worked feverishly to create a real-time art piece about how attendees can incorporate Zero Waste into their daily lives and their favorite memories at Shedd with visual notes and hand-drawn illustrations. Between sipping cocktails and experiencing special animal encounters to tastings from Chicago’s top restaurants like Nude Dude Food and Shaw’s Crab House, guests also had the opportunity to marvel at a “trashion” show, hosted by Gordon Salon, with models wearing upcycled couture outfits made from plastic bottles and bags. These activities and experiences helped inspire “Out of the BLU” attendees to think twice before reaching for single-use plastic materials.
The stylish socialites then made their way to an exclusive aquatic presentation titled Tomorrow Starts Tonight, in the Abbott Oceanarium that featured a dynamic musical performance by Musicality – a local west Chicago musical group featured on America's Got Talent. During the special program, there was a call to take action for animals by Shedd’s President and CEO, Dr. Bridget Coughlin, who highlighted the aquarium’s ongoing plastic pollution reduction efforts alongside recent heartwarming animal rescue stories. Following the stunning aquatic presentation with California sea lions, Pacific white-sided dolphins and Magellanic and rockhopper penguins, guests participated in a paddle raise, raising more than $47,000 in donations to benefit the aquarium’s mission.
From there, attendees went to the Sick Family Lakefront Terrace where the dance floor opened with special performances by some of Chicago’s most popular drag performers, including Kat Sass and Lucy Stoole. Guests could enjoy food and drink in the downstairs foyer or dance the night away and gaze at the fireworks over Navy Pier. Concluding the eventful evening, guests had the option to keep the party going at LiqrBox Chicago for the BLU After Party. While exiting, guests picked up a reusable bag, with SWZLE reusable straws, Ferrara candy, reusable food wraps, and more, to encourage them to embrace the Zero Waste theme and choose alternatives to single-use plastics in their daily lives.
“Out of the BLU” is sponsored, in part, by Citadel, Ferrara, ArcelorMittal and more. Shedd Aquarium’s Auxiliary Board hosted the annual fundraising event.
EDITOR’S NOTE: BLU photos and captions can be found viewed and downloaded here: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8e69658b5e606e77b0
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Eva Ho and ©Shedd Aquarium/Danielle Dolan