Johari the cheetah welcomed more than 500 cheetah-chic guests to the Living Desert’s 24th annual Zoobilee Gala. The Living Desert has proclaimed it to be the Year of the Cheetah to celebrate and bring attention to one of the most magnificent and endangered animals in the world.
Chaired by Sandy Woodson and her committee of more than 30 Living Desert supporters, the evening included an elegant cocktail hour with a silent auction held under crystal-decked trees in the zoo’s hip safari-theme gardens. Guests enjoyed close encounters with exotic snakes, owls, tortoises, and an armadillo … all of which were cradled in the arms of Living Desert attendants.
Guests were directed to a mammoth tent for an elegant dinner and a live auction. The latter featured an opportunity to name the Living Desert’s 7-week-old jaguar cub. Local philanthropist and art collector Donna MacMillan won that privilege with a $12,000 bid.
The “raise the paw” auction enthusiastically led by Brian Harnik helped the Living Desert raise more than $750,000 to support the zoo’s conservation and educational programming. This programming includes school field trips for underserved communities, as well as in-field conservation efforts that help save species from extinction.
Brooke Beare of CBS Local 2 served as emcee for the fantasy-theme event designed by Momentous Occasions. Presenting sponsors were Patti and Jack Grundhofer and JoAnn McGrath.
Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
47900 Portola Ave.
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Photography by Loretta Vlach