Press Room


Record-breaking gala exceeds goal of $750,000 for the Zoo’s conservation and education programs

Contact: Erin Scott
Sr. Marketing and Public Relations Manager
760-346-5694 x.2610

The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens is thrilled to announce the record-breaking and successful completion of their recently held 24th annual Zoobilee Gala. The event, themed Cheetah Nights, was held on grounds at The Living Desert and welcomed over 500 guests, raising more than $750,000 for the organization.

“We are so honored by the generosity of our supporters and donors,” said Jan Hawkins, Director of Development at The Living Desert. “The evening was magical, and all of the funds raised will help us further our mission by helping fund programming such as educating local, school-aged children about the desert’s flora and fauna, and on-site and in-field conservation programing to help save wild animals and wild places.”

The evening began with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – the chance to meet a cheetah. The Living Desert partnered with San Diego Zoo Global to provide guests unique access to see one of these amazing animals up close. Guests were then treated to more than 20 animal encounters, including owls, tortoises, a hedgehog, an armadillo, donkeys and many others. A robust silent auction rounded out the lively cocktail reception.

The evening, emceed by Brooke Beare, CBS Local 2 Evening Anchor, included a moving appeal from RoxAnna Breitigan, The Living Desert’s Director of Animal Programs and the introduction of Rosie, the Bighorn Sheep. Rosie came to The Living Desert as a very sick lamb in the Spring of 2015. After being nursed back to health by staff at The Living Desert, Rosie is now a beautiful, healthy sheep who has become an ambassador for her species, helping to educate and inspire guests.

The evening continued with an enthusiastic ‘Raise-the-Paw’ effort and an energetic live auction, which included the opportunity to name the baby jaguar cub born on January 26. Donna MacMillan was the winning bidder of the naming at $12,000. The cub’s new name will be announced soon.

“We are extremely excited about the success of this year’s Zoobilee gala. We are grateful for all of the hard work our committee put forth to make the event such a success and I am humbled by the generosity of our sponsors and guests,” said Sandy Woodson, chairwoman of the event. “We are thankful our community recognizes the importance of The Living Desert’s conservation and education programs.”

The Living Desert’s President/CEO Allen Monroe concluded the evening with the surprise announcement of three generous gifts to The Living Desert. Two substantial leadership gifts to the Zoo’s capital campaign were announced: Connie & Bob Lurie for $1 million and Patti & Jack Grundhofer for $3 million – both couples pledging to support the zoo as it embarks on a $30 million capital campaign, entitled Pride of the Desert. The capital campaign will allow The Living Desert to begin construction on its new

entrance, animal exhibits and special events center. The final announcement was a record-breaking gift to The Living Legacy Endowment Fund from longtime supporter Dal Weber – a historic $11.5 million – to help support the Zoo’s long term financial sustainability, ensuring a permanent and reliable source of funding to the organization.

“Dal Weber’s steadfast support of The Living Desert, throughout her life, is a testament to her love and appreciation of the natural world. Her transformative gift will allow us to continue working to fulfill our mission and help ensure the successful financial future of The Living Desert, our programs and conservation work,” said Monroe. “Dal’s foresight and generosity will continue to live on through the organization for future generations.”

The evening’s presenting sponsors were JoAnn McGrath, Patti & Jack Grundhofer, with platinum sponsors: H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation, US Bank, Union Bank, Hal & Peggy Bernthal, Joy & Harry Goldstein, Candace & John Holzgrafe, Janet & Kirk Lanterman, Harold Matzner and Dal Weber. The event was chaired by Sandy Woodson with Honorary Chair, Patti Grundhofer.

For more information, visit or call 760-346-5694, ext. 2166.

About The Living Desert:
The Living Desert is an AZA-accredited zoo and gardens that is dedicated to desert conservation through preservation, education and appreciation. It is a family-friendly place to explore nature and create meaningful experiences for guests that are remembered for a lifetime.
For more information: (760) 346- 5694 or visit The Living Desert is located at: 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, CA 92260.

Due to heavy storm erosion, our hiking trails will be closed until further notice. The Zoo is still open.