"BLU Goes Green!" Review- The Shedd Aquarium Hosts a Party for the Planet

On July 29, 2017, the Shedd Aquarium’s Auxiliary Board hosted “BLU Goes Green!”, their eleventh annual and signature summer fundraising event on a picture perfect evening.  This year, the focus of “BLU Goes Green!” was the museum’s conservation initiatives, including the recent “Shedd the Straw” campaign and the launch of the “Aquarium Conservation Partnership.”

Shedd Aquarium's Pacific white-sided dolphin catch some air during a special aquatic presentation for "BLU Goes Green!"; photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

The Shedd Aquarium launched its “Shedd the Straw” campaign on Earth Day, April 22, 2017 and since then, this campaign has quietly and quickly become a movement. The goal of the campaign is to inspire Chicagoans to remove single-use plastic straws from their everyday life in order to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that enters our oceans, lakes and rivers. 

The festivities of BLU, a “party for the planet”, began at dusk on the North Terrace overlooking Lake Michigan with the music of a great jazz band made up of violin, bass, clarinet and 2 guitars. Cocktails provided by MillerCoors, Breakthru Beverage and Cutwater Spirits and Burke along with delicious refreshments were served both outside and later, inside the Aquarium, courtesy of 20 of Chicago’s best restaurants, including Hooked on Fish, Baptiste and Bottle, and Shaw’s Crab.


800 festively attired guests circulated among the crystal-clear built-in environments of the Abbot Oceanarium, the Waters of the World galleries and the special exhibit Amphibians, all teeming with spectacular denizens of the deep. This reviewer tasted truffle-infused gnocchi with sweet corn and lamb at a blue-skirted table on the terrace; succumbing to dreamy caramel pie inside, I admired spotted eagle rays, spider crabs, sun stars, a shy octopus, and purple sea urchins.


The jazz combo on the North Terrace; photo by Debra Davy

BLU co-chairs Jeffrey Ollada, Alexandra Miller and Whitney Key Towey led a special aquatic presentation and encouraged generous donorship among the packed guests in the Rice Amphitheater, framed against gorgeous views of Chicago’s skyline. BLU raises funds that are essential to Shedd’s sustainability, conservation and education initiatives.


Bridget C. Coughlin, PHD, President and Chief Executive Officer, spoke with warmth and devotion about the Canadian Beluga Whale project and the Aquarium’s Triple-C Mission: Compassion, Curiosity and Conservation of the Animal World. She also opened the program with a large sea lion that followed her lovingly about. Pacific white-sided dolphin stole the show from other watery stars as they leapt joyously in duets and groups to the delight of the guests.


In addition, throughout the evening, guests were able to bid for extraordinary experiences using their smartphones. A total of $400,000 was raised during the event- a success by anybody’s definition.

Jellyfish in the Oceanarium; photo by Debra Davy


After the presentation, and before enjoying the spectacular Navy Pier fireworks, the Shedd’s lakeside Dance Floor on the beautifully lit Sick Family Lakefront Terrace was opened under the stars, the band struck up again, and guests enjoyed joyous tunes. It was a very special evening, one to be remembered and enjoyed next year!


 Thanks to the following 2017 special supporters: Beluga Sponsors Lauran and Myrna Bromley; Dolphin Sponsor Mizuho; Sea Turtle Sponsors Nathaniel Clapp, DesignerShare and GATX; penguin sponsors JamesDruryPartners, Stephanie Lippian, Townsend Beauty, David Trace, Dana Waud and Winston and Strawn, LLP, by Jay Healy.


2017 "BLU" co-chairs Alexandra Miller, Jeffrey Ollada and Whitney Key Towey; photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

This reviewer had the opportunity to chat with Auxiliary Board Members and BLU co-chairs (along with Alexandra Miller) Jeffrey Ollada and Whitney Key Towey about BLU and “Shedd the Straw”. Their commitment, depth of knowledge and enthusiasm came through clearly in their remarks, paraphrased below:


Ollada has been a member of the Shedd Aquarium for 14 years, and a donor for 10. He advised that working on BLU had been “a lot of work, but it was very rewarding work to celebrate one of the things Shedd does particularly well- conservation. There’s a lot about this museum that people can miss who simply enjoy the exhibits.”


A life-size amphibian boogies to the band on The North Terrace; photo by Debra Davy

Towey added, “Of course BLU was a success! It was a great opportunity for people to experience the Shedd as more than a museum. Shedd is engaged in conservation efforts throughout the world, in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, the Bahamas, and closer to home, for instance, working with the mud guppies in Southern Illinois.”


The 3 of us discussed the “Shedd the Straw” campaign, and mentioned the larger efforts to rid the world of single use plastics that pollute the waters and will ultimately end up inside of wildlife.


Ollada warned, “It’s been predicted that the world’s oceans will hold more plastic than fish, pound for pound, by the year 2050. Efforts Like the “Shedd the Straw” campaign generate awareness and compassion, which help reduce the amount of single-use plastic used and that could end up in the waterways”.

Towey ended, “Putting the campaign into the community is a very important step”.


Shedd's facade lights up over the dance floor to celebrate "BLU Goes Green!"; photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium/Eva Ho

For more information about all of the wonderful programs at The Shedd Aquarium, go to the SheddAquarium website





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