News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
May 11, 2021                               
 Note: Photos available at end of the press release.
Chicago Zoological Society’s Whirl Raises over $1.1 Million during Virtual Event

Brookfield, Ill. — This year, the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) celebrated its 40th anniversary of the Whirl, its largest annual fundraiser. The event, co-hosted by the Society’s Board of Trustees and Women’s Board, was held virtually on May 1.

Hundreds of guests tuned in during the virtual fundraiser, which grossed over $1.1 million for the animals at Brookfield Zoo as well as the Society’s conservation, education, and research programs.

The program featured welcoming comments from Dr. Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of CZS, who recognized the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chicago Zoological Society, the nonprofit organization that manages Brookfield Zoo. Additional remarks were given by Michael and Melissa Canning, Whirl co-chairs; Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Forest Preserves of Cook County; John Grube, chairman of the Society’s Board of Trustees; and Sasha Gerritson, president of the Women’s Board of CZS.

Auctioneer Jonathan Kraft announced the fundraiser’s virtual paddle raise and live auction. Additionally, videos featuring many of Brookfield Zoo’s charismatic animals were highlighted throughout the evening and Maggie Speaks, one of Chicago’s most popular bands, entertained the viewing audience with several songs.

During the event, attendees were able to bid on dozens of amazing silent auction items that included a stunning piece of jewelry courtesy of A. Marek Fine Jewelry; a Kate Spade loden green exotic tote; sports memorabilia, including a signed football by Green Bay Packers legendary quarterback Bart Starr; an exquisite elephant brooch; an array of gift basket packages from local venues; and animal-themed opportunities from Brookfield Zoo such as VIP tours and naming one of the zoo’s Bennett’s wallaby joeys and a black-footed cat.

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Photos (courtesy CZS-Brookfield Zoo)
1: Dr. Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society
2: Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Forest Preserves of Cook County
3: John Grube, chairman of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Board of Trustees
4: Michael and Melissa Canning, Whirl co-chairs
5: Sasha Gerritson, president of the Women’s Board of the Chicago Zoological Society
6: Maggie Speaks, performed several songs during the virtual fundraiser
7: 40th annual Whirl logo

About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with 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 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
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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