News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, director of public relations, 708.688.8351,
May 23, 2023
Chicago Zoological Society’s Whirl Raises $1.6 Million

Brookfield, Ill. — The Chicago Zoological Society’s (CZS) Women's Board and Board of Trustees hosted their 42nd annual black-tie gala on April 29. The successful event raised more than $1.6 million, which will benefit animal care and welfare initiatives, as well as the conservation and education programs of the Chicago Zoological Society. This year’s theme—Gorillas in Our Midst—highlighted the new 2-acre outdoor habitat for Brookfield Zoo’s western lowland gorillas, orangutans, and other primates that is scheduled to open in 2025.

The fundraiser, which was attended by 525 corporate, civic, and philanthropic leaders from the Chicagoland area, was held at the Hilton Chicago. It was co-chaired by Barbara Bradford and Sasha Gerritson, both members of the Society’s Board of Trustees and Women’s Board.

The evening began with a cocktail hour and featured several of Brookfield Zoo’s animal ambassadors, including a blue-throated macaw; T-Mo, a Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth; PJ, a prehensile-tailed porcupine; Norman, a cape porcupine; a snake, tamandua, and a tarantula. Also, during cocktails, guests were able to view a detailed architectural model of the new outdoor primate habitat.

A three-course dinner followed in the Grand Ballroom, which was spectacularly decorated by Phillip’s Flowers. While dinner was being served, several more animal ambassadors took center stage, including the Zoo’s popular Humboldt penguins, represented by Pepe, Pedro, and Pepero, and Kyan, one of the servals. An impactful and heartfelt video, narrated by the Society’s staff, highlighted personal insight and anticipation to what the animals and guests will experience when the new outdoor primate habitat opens. Also appearing in the video was an inspiring 9-year-old girl, who donated money to the Zoo that she raised from selling lemonade.

The evening also featured a paddle raise, raffle drawing, and a live auction featuring incredible items. They included: a royal stay at the historic Le Grand Controle in Versailles, France; a diamond collar necklace with a matching set of hoop earrings in 18 karat white gold and titanium; a four-day and three-night stay in a Club Level suite at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota; cocktails with the big cats and the opportunity to meet the staff who care for them at Brookfield Zoo; and the chance to name a baby Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth, who made a special appearance. Additionally, guests were able to purchase beautiful animal prints from the Save the Species Wall. Dinner was followed by dancing to the music of the Ken Arlen Evolution Orchestra.

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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people to wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. The Zoo is also accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, and the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association. Brookfield Zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, and CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit



Sondra Katzen
Director of Public Relations
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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