Shedd Aquarium goes "Frog Wild" at annual BLU gala

More than 1,050 of Chicago’s young philanthropists attended BLU, an annual fundraiser for the Shedd Aquarium  hosted by its Auxiliary Board on July 25. Themed Frog Wild!, this fun-filled party raised more than $415,000 and celebrated Shedd’s new special exhibit, Amphibians.

BLU Co-Chairs Jay Healy, Alexis Geocaris Sutton and Christina Talarico, along with the 80-member Auxiliary Board, shared their passion for Shedd’s education and conservation initiatives at this premier summer fundraising fête. The evening began in the aquarium’s Abbott Oceanarium and featured "aquatic" décor donated by Event Creative.

NBC's The Voice’s John Martin performed on the Lakefront Terrace following a cocktail reception where guests were treated to an aquatic show.  Emceed by Ken Ramirez, Shedd’s Animal Care & Training Advisor and Executive VP/Chief Training Officer, the show featured a parade of Magellanic penguins and a demonstration of the “Shedd Way” of training featuring beluga whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

Diving deeper into Shedd (see what I did there?), guests were invited to explore the new Amphibians exhibit with its more than 40 species of frogs, salamanders and rarely seen caecilians (an order of limbless, serpentine amphibians). With 41% of the world’s species considered threatened, BLU guests saw firsthand how Shedd and others are working to create a healthier future for them.

Next, partygoers moved upstairs and explored the Waters of the World galleries where they enjoyed music by The Salt & The Sea and tastings from more than 20 of Chicago’s premier restaurants. (All seafood menu offerings were sustainably sourced).

Before the sun had set on Lake Michigan, attendees were treated to a surprise performance by Pyrotechniq, the jaw-dropping fire troupe, on the Lakeside Terrace. Artbeat Live’s Elliott From created a six-foot Chicago Blackhawks portrait in minutes while partygoers danced the night away to DJ KJ against a backdrop of fireworks over Lake Michigan.

A late night sweets lounge served treats from More Cupcakes, Stan’s Donuts and Nespresso.  An STK Kissing Booth allowed revelers the opportunity to plant a smooch on Shedd’s strawberry dart frog mascot.

And as if all this wasn't enough, an after-party followed at Filini Bar, Radisson Blu Aqua. Whew!

Funds raised through the event allow Shedd to continue to "inspire visitors to make a difference in the living world, provide exceptional care to its 32,000 animals and support conservation efforts around the world.”

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