Brookfield Zoo hosted its annual fundraiser, Whirl, at the Hilton Chicago with beautiful decor by Phillip's Flowers. (Photo by Jim Schulz/CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

Brookfield Zoo hosted its annual fundraiser, Whirl, at the Hilton Chicago with beautiful decor by Phillip's Flowers. (Photo by Jim Schulz/CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

The Chicago Zoological Society’s (CZS) Women's Board and Board of Trustees hosted its 42nd annual black-tie gala on April 29. The 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 beautifully 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 that 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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“Candid” Candace Jordan is an award-winning media personality, Associate Publisher Chicago Star, former Chicago Tribune social columnist, founder of the popular blog and Candid Candace TV. She has been featured in local publications as: “100 Most Influential Chicagoans,” “100 Women Making a Difference,” “100 Women of Influence,” and “25 Most Intriguing Chicagoans.” She is a 9-time Playboy cover-girl and centerfold, appeared in "Risky Business" with Tom Cruise and on a billboard in Times Square. She has been recognized as a “Chicago personal brand” since moving here in 1974 and is a champion and an advocate for our city, shining a light on the charities, people and events that make it great through her many media outlets.

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