Weathering the Storm

I’m happy to report that last week’s Zoo Ball raised more than $1 million for Lincoln Park Zoo. For a while on Friday, though, it seemed the zoo’s top fundraiser was going to be a washout.

A massive storm blew in just as staff and volunteers were applying finishing touches beneath the party tent on the zoo’s Main Mall. So while they should have been getting ready to welcome guests to “The Great Catsby,” they found themselves battening down the hatches, powering down the sound system and rushing to keep the event from blowing away.

The storm's aftermath included this tree, which fell through the perimeter fence near the east side of Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

The storm's aftermath included this tree, which fell through the perimeter fence near the east side of Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.

In its wake, the storm left flooded buildings, downed branches, shredded signage and a gap near Nature Boardwalk where a hackberry tree crashed through the outer perimeter fence. Thankfully, no people or animals were hurt in the squall. But it was hard to believe we’d be able to host the summer gala organized by the Women’s Board of Lincoln Park Zoo, which contributes so much to keeping Lincoln Park Zoo free and world-class.

Guests enjoyed the gala on the Main Mall - and raised more than $1 million for Lincoln Park Zoo.

Guests enjoyed the gala on the Main Mall—and raised more than $1 million for Lincoln Park Zoo.

Thanks to an amazing effort, we did. People from all parts of the zoo pitched in to clear debris and restore the elegant setting. Despite the storm, this year’s Zoo Ball was one of the best we’ve had, with generous contributions from 1,000 friends of the zoo—and a surprise performance from Village People!

Kevin poses with Village People after their performance, along with Kimbra Walter, Zoo Ball Co-Chair Cynthia Ross Polayes and Mark Walter.

Kevin poses with Village People after their performance, along with Kimbra Walter, Zoo Ball Co-Chair Cynthia Ross Polayes and Mark Walter.

Congratulations to Women’s Board President Abby Zanarini and Zoo Ball Co-Chairs Cynthia Ross Polayes and Suzanne A. Meder for planning a wonderful event. Thanks for presenting sponsor Guggenheim and other contributors. And my sincere appreciation to everyone who banded together to ensure it happened.

Kevin with Zoo Ball co-chairs Cynthia Ross Polayes and Suzanne A. Meder and Women's Board President Abby Zanarini.

Kevin with Zoo Ball co-chairs Cynthia Ross Polayes and Suzanne A. Meder and Women's Board President Abby Zanarini.

Continuing the theme of appreciation, I wouldn’t want to let National Zookeeper Week pass without offering a tribute to all the zoo’s excellent caregivers. The well-being of the zoo’s animals is always our top priority. The day-to-day care offered by zookeepers reflects the very commitment I saw on Friday—every day of the year.

Kevin Bell

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