THRIVE Gala Raises Record Amount for Shedd Aquarium’s Conservation Research, Education, and Animal Care Efforts

On Saturday, October 1, Shedd Aquarium’s black-tie gala event, THRIVE, raised nearly $2.2 million during a paddle raise for the aquarium’s conservation, education, and animal care efforts. More than 700 people attended the sold-out event centered around the importance of coral reefs and the Shedd’s ongoing coral research. 

This night marked the return of the annual Board of Trustees Gala, the first in three years after the Covid-19 pandemic. The night brought an incredible turnout from the Shedd’s Board of Trustees, including the new chair David Koo.

“The nearly three years since our last gala has been punctuated by major developments in how Shedd delivers its mission and what our future holds,” said Shedd President and CEO Dr. Bridget Coughlin in a press release. “This historic display of generosity comes at a momentous time for the aquarium as we embark on a new strategic vision – our Centennial Commitment — that promises to accelerate access and connection to nature for all. We are thankful for these contributions from our community that demonstrate confidence in our ambitions and will help to shape a more equitable, sustainable, and thriving future for people and aquatic life.”

Shedd President & CEO Dr. Bridget C. Coughlin and husband Dr. Brian Wegner

Gala co-chairs Brian Kenney, Kristin Longley, John Holmes, and Jenni Sorenson planned the successful gala with pop-up animal encounters alongside elegant décor and floral arrangements from Revel Décor

2022 THRIVE co-chairs: Shedd Trustee Brian Kenney & Kristin Longley; Jenni Sorenson & Shedd Trustee John Holmes

The evening started with a cocktail reception and passed hors d’oeuvres on the mezzanine level of the Abbott Oceanarium, where attendees could enjoy a view of the Underwater Beauty exhibit. Guests then ventured to the amphitheater for an exclusive aquatic presentation. During the presentation, guests heard from Shedd President and CEO, Bridget Coughlin, as well as the event’s four co-chairs. The night’s fundraising opportunity followed the performance in the form of a paddle raising, helping the Shedd to achieve its record-breaking $2.2 million in donations. 

Following the successful paddle raise, attendees sat down for a multi-course dinner catered by Sodexo in one of the Shedd’s historic galleries. After dinner, Shedd’s coral research team had several stations for guests to get closer to the aquarium’s ongoing science around coral heat tolerance. Cabinet of Curiosity Events provided additional entertainment through the night. 

Dr. Shayle Matsuda walks guests through an interactive coral heat-tolerance demonstration using technology built by teens in the ASM program at Shedd Aquarium

Later, the dance floor opened with live music from Mix Tape, drinks, and late-night treats from Adalina to close the evening. Attendees could also explore immersive coral activations with Shedd experts or head to Soundings After Dark lounge featuring the Shedd’s Trustee, co-chair, and DJ, John Holmes. The night’s entertainment also included music from Black Bear Combo, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus.

2022 THRIVE co-chair and Shedd Trustee John Holmes got the party started

THRIVE is partly made possible by their generous sponsors AbbVie, Bank of America, Brunswick, GATX, John Holmes and Jenni Sorenson/AAR, Anne and Gregory Jones, Anna, and Bob Livingston, Brian Kenney and Kristin Longley.

How to Help:

Support the work of the Shedd Aquarium. Your donation helps sustain operations from caring for their resident animals to stewarding the next generation.

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Jessica Braun Gervais is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and fitness. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Columbia College and has written content for various health and wellness institutions. Jessica Braun’s passion for wellness comes from her life as an elite athlete competing in Muay Thai kickboxing competitions across the country. In addition to sharing her expertise through writing, Jessica Braun also works as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. When she’s not writing or training, Jessica Braun enjoys reading historical fiction novels, discovering new coffee shops, and cuddling with her cattle dog, Brady.