Ever wonder how to pet a porcupine? Guests at the 31st annual Chicago Zoological Society fund-raiser at the Brookfield Zoo will find out. A cheetah, flamingo, penguin, fennec fox and crested porcupine are among the evening’s honored guests.
The society, a private nonprofit organization that operates the zoo, is famous throughout the world for Brookfield’s innovative, naturalistic, multispecies exhibits and international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. The annual “Whirl” fund-raiser, hosted by the Women’s Board of the Chicago Zoological Society and Board of Trustees, will highlight the society’s legacy of animal care, compassion and conservation.
The goal of this year’s black-tie fund-raiser is to raise more than $1 million to support the animals at Brookfield Zoo, as well as the society’s conservation and education outreach programs. Guests will dance to the music of Maggie Speaks and compete in a live auction and raffle for the chance to win unique prizes for animal lovers, including the naming of an aardvark, born earlier this year. Cause & Event caught up with William C. Kunkler III, executive vice president of CC Industries and board chair of the Chicago Zoological Society, about his love for animals and the exciting happenings at the zoo and this year’s Whirl.
Q. Why did you get involved with the zoo?
A. I’ve had a passion for zoos since I was a kid. Where I grew up, in Worcester, Mass., there was a place called Benson’s Wild Animal Farm. Once I was taken there, it was something I wanted to return to over and over again. Instead of going to a ballgame, that was my preferred way to get away; I always loved going to the zoo. I got involved with Brookfield Zoo because I wanted to give back to the community and protect this wonderful place. The Brookfield Zoo is one of the top zoos in the country, and it’s in our backyard. Even when I go for meetings, I’ll take time to visit an exhibit that I maybe haven’t seen before.
Q. What’s your favorite part of the Brookfield Zoo?
A. The Great Bear Wilderness. My wife and our family are big supporters. Not only does it have the iconic creatures of North America – grizzly bears, polar bears, American bison and Mexican gray wolves – but it also teaches visitors about what’s going on in the world and the importance of taking action to conserve the habitat for these animals.
Q. What are you looking forward to at the Whirl?
A. This year the theme is “It’s a Wonderful Whirl,” and we’re going to have animal encounters with exotic creatures including a porcupine, a cheetah and more. Keepers will allow people to get close to these animals and, if appropriate, they can touch them, but I don’t know how you’d pet a porcupine!
Q. What kind of programs will be supported with the funds?
A. The million dollars we hope to raise will go directly to animal care and to our conservation and education programs. We have a great partnership with Chicago area schools and we augment the science curriculum for teachers.
The Sun-Times is a media sponsor of the event.