Successful Night Of Fundraising Raised Over $1.4 Million for Dallas Zoo
By Cynthia Smoot Photography by Thomas Garza and Rob Wythe/Wythe Portrait Studio
THE SETTING: The Dallas Zoo’s largest annual fundraiser, themed Adventure Awaits, was presented by The Eugene McDermott Foundation and honorary chair, Lyda Hill. As guests entered the Dallas Zoo Entry Plaza, they were met with an impressive display of vehicles from Sewell Automotive Group and after passing through the front gates, were greeted by beautiful flamingos mingling with the crowd courtesy of the Dallas Zoo’s Animal Adventures Outreach program, serving as the perfect backdrop for photos and selfies as welcome cocktails were served.
Chairs Steven J. Roth and Thai-lan Tran greeted guests dressed in festive Safari Chic as trams loaded VIPs for private tours, while others chose to indulge in the gourmet offerings at the Gorilla Research Station VIP reception, traveling by trams past the huge animal lanterns lit up for the Dallas Zoo Lights Presented by Reliant holiday event. Arriving at the Giants of the Savanna habitat, a lively scene of bar stations glowing with colorful images of animals from the event’s fabulous invitation and towering balloons lit with sponsors’ names created a very special experiential feeling.
THE VIBE: Patrons strolled around the silent auction, savoring the culinary delights offered by some of Dallas’ most significant restaurants, including Honorary Chef Dan Landsberg serving up treats from Circle T Ranch, and Chef Recruiter, Jimmy Contreras offering mini Tex-Mex tacos from his restaurant, Taco Y Vino. Chef Wrangler Brett Krafft chatted with chefs who donated the All-Star Chef Private Dinner which was featured in the live auction, including Chef Janice Provost, Parigi; Chef Abraham Salum, Salum; Chef Stephen Rogers, Gemma and Sachet; Chef Gilbert Garza, Suze; Chef Matt Balke, Encina and Chef Dan Landsberg.
Along the way, the Zoo staff was armed with animal encounters, including a boa constrictor, armadillo, owl, and the ultimate fun, guests were welcome to feed the giraffes. Late night was a special treat, which included fun desserts and late-night bites from even more outstanding restaurants that were stationed in the Wilds of Africa Plaza. Guests continued to bid on the Big Board items and in the silent auction until Sean Greene, Executive Vice President of Park Operations and Chief Operating Officer, took the stage welcoming everyone and saying that Zoo To Do is the most fun party in Dallas. The Zoo also announced that mother/daughter duo Mary McDermott Cook and Grace Cook will be the Zoo To Do Chairs for the 2024 event. A heartfelt video shown included a “thank you” to Ann Stuart, PhD., for her generous donation to help make the Dallas Zoo one of only three zoos with a lab dedicated to testing African elephants for the deadly virus, EEHV, and a touching tribute to the late Gregg Hudson, former president, and CEO of the Dallas Zoo.
A spirited live auction began featuring travel, many one-of-a-kind Zoo experiences –Pride and Feast at Serengeti Grill sold twice for $17,000 each; a new experience dubbed Ticket To Ride: Your Passport to Dallas’ Most Prestigious Annual Galas, including Zoo To Do, went for $17,000; and a very special private chef’s dinner, which sold four times at $32,500 each. The evening ended with everyone dancing to the fun tunes of party band Manhattan. As guests exited, they enjoyed fresh cookies donated by Party Favor Sponsor Tiff’s Treats. Host Committee Reception sponsor. Committee members include Advisory Committee chairs, Diane Brierley, Marena Gault, Cindy Gummer and Kim Hext; Underwriting Committee chairs Alex Arellano and Ryan Gummer; Live Auction Committee chairs Diane and Hal Brierley, Grace Cook and Mary McDermott Cook; Big Board chair, Cindy Gummer; Silent Auction Committee chair, Chuck Steelman; Raffle Committee chairs Claudia Lode and Preston Hext; Wine Guys, Greg Hext, Preston Hext, Matthew Meadows and Michael Meadows.
THE NON-PROFIT: This event is a major source of funding for the nonprofit Dallas Zoo, bringing in more than $1 million each year to help support the Zoo’s dedication to providing the best animal care, delivering unique education offerings, and strengthening its wildlife conservation efforts with 37 conservation partners over four continents