Big guns turn out for a great cause

Opinion

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JUDY BAAR-TOPINKA

Once again, Brookfield Zoo held its annual Brookfield Zoo Whirl. Some 900 plus people enjoyed what had to be one of the best organized, most successful fundraising events ever tossed by the zoo.

Trips to Africa, London and Paris were raffled off at $100 a pop, and if one bought $500 worth of tickets, that allowed the ticketholder a chance on a new Jaguar car. If that were not enough, Chicago art/antiques auctioneer Leslie Hindman and everyone's favorite TV documentary maker, Bill Kurtis, ran a "Dutch Auction" which had to bring in thousands more.

Chicago's foremost fundraising person, Pat Hurley, with associate Colleen McGuire, were in charge, and did not disappoint, even fixing the usual parking problems. It was just an all-around, overall success in big tents. The theme this year was "Amazing Cats," and threatened lions, tigers, leopards and other wild felines were projected on the ceiling of the large tent which covered the formally-clad guests.

The politicos were out in force, and included State House Minority Leader Tom Cross, State Senator and Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, State Sen. Dave Sullivan, State Sen. Lou Viverito, State Rep. Bob Biggins, and former representative and now lobbyist Jack Kubik. All were accompanied by their spouses.

The zoo, which sits on Cook County Forest Preserve property but is called the Chicago Zoological Park, does get various forms of tax dollars from various entities. Still, it is a living museum, if you will, with some pretty heavy expenses. The zoo's board and women's board help get private monies through their annual fundraising events.

As one who has enjoyed the zoo from childhood, it is amazing how the zoo has changed to become one of the 10 foremost zoos internationally. Often we forget that this gem is right in our own backyard, and that people come from all over the world to see what we so cavalierly take for granted.

As a child, I was awestruck by animals such as monkeys in their small, sterile little enclosures. Now, one can see Tropic World where the monkeys and gorillas have their own habitat in a setting that is as interesting for the animals as it is for human visitors. And, as a child, who would have thought that an indoor porpoise show was even possible? Yet, here it is, as are exhibits in the best traditions of animal husbandry.

Although Bill Kurtis made the point that zoos of the future might be the only places to see various animals which may become extinct due to loss of habitat, it was not lost on me that we human beings were responsible for that loss of habitat, thus necessitating fundraising to protect the very same animal life we had compromised due to our habits, wants and desires.

And speaking of animals, I could not help but notice an article in the media regarding what fire departments were doing around the country to help save family pets from smoke inhalation during home fires.

As firefighters noted, people are their first prerogative in terms of rescues, but if it is doable, they will go back for family pets who are family companions, often treated as members of the family, even as children by some.

New equipment is now available which fits over an animal's snout, thus allowing oxygen to be given to them without trying to use "people equipment" which does not fit and is not always successful.

The article I read noted that this special equipment, which costs about $300 and includes three sizes of oxygen masks to fit all snouts, was rarely paid for by fire departments. Usually, some club, organization or benefactor provided the necessary funds.

It sounded to me something which would be welcome at our local fire departments courtesy of some of our local organizations who do philanthropy. I am thinking of service clubs, women's groups, scouts or school children coming together to make sure that all living things have a chance to survive a house fire.

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