On the Town: Zoo association members wild about upcoming Beastly Ball

The Los Angeles Zoo's one-month old Grévy's zebra foal getting accustomed to the world with her mother, Jamila, who came from a herd that is a part of a species survival program.
The Los Angeles Zoo’s one-month old Grévy’s zebra foal getting accustomed to the world with her mother, Jamila, who came from a herd that is a part of a species survival program.
(David Laurell / Burbank Leader)

This past week, staff from the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn., or GLAZA, along with zoo ambassadors and volunteers were busy putting the finishing touches on this year’s Beastly Ball that will be held on May 18.

Billed as the biggest and wildest party in Los Angeles, this year’s 49th ball will make it the longest-running continuous fundraiser in the city’s history.

With the zoo practically located in Burbank’s backyard, it should come as no surprise that many Burbankers have attended the ball over the years, and that numerous employees, including Kirin Daugharty, who serves as the zoo’s manager of volunteer programs, and more than 60 regular docents and volunteers live in Burbank.

The most high-profile of local residents is actress Carolyn Hennesy, who serves as an ambassador for the zoo.

Best-known for her role as Diane Miller on “General Hospital,” Hennesy says it’s fitting that this year’s Beastly Ball will take place on the day after National Endangered Species Day.

“That really underscores the zoo’s commitment to protecting endangered species,” Hennesy said during a recent planning meeting for the ball.

“The funds raised at the Beastly Ball are critical to the fulfillment of our mission, which advocates for animal conservation and habitat preservation for some of the world’s most rare and vulnerable species,” she added.

Among those planning this year's ball are the zoo's assistant director of events Melissa Grossenbaher, from left, VP of institutional advancement Genie Vasels, zoo ambassador Carolyn Hennesy, publicist Ashley E. Rodgers, and Kait Hilliard, VP of marketing and communications.
(David Laurell / Burbank Leader)

Prior to the planning session, Hennesy, whose support for the zoo stems from her longtime commitment to conservation and preservation, was given a special treat: The opportunity to meet the zoo’s newest resident, a Grévy’s zebra foal who was born on April 2.

“She’s just gorgeous, and so very special,” said Hennesy as she watched the foal explore her new world.

“This zoo is filled with hope, and she is the result of that hope, along with a lot of diligent work and planning. I always say, this isn’t just a zoo, it’s an ark of preservation, and she’s the living proof of that,” she said.

“The people who attend the Beastly Ball are the ones who make the zoo’s species survival program possible, they are the ones who made her possible,” she added

Still unnamed, the foal represents the first successful birth of a Grévy’s zebra at the zoo since 1988. Her parents, Khalfani and Jamila, are from a herd that came to the zoo in 2016 as part of its program that aims to increase the population of animals that are endangered in the wild.

Stressing the many volunteer opportunities the zoo offers to locals, Hennesy encouraged her fellow Burbankers to get involved.

“All you have to do is call the zoo and say you want to be a volunteer, it’s that simple,” she said.

“It’s such a beautiful environment to work in, one in which you are surrounded by the most magnificent living works of arts.”

Hennessy also made it a point to let locals know that tickets are still available for this year’s ball where, along with entertainment and dining, ball-goers can experience up-close encounters with majestic and unique animals and interact with their handlers.

“We’ll have the Smokehouse and Simmzy’s from Burbank participating, along with some of Los Angeles’ most iconic restaurants,” she said.

There will be silent and live auctions offering things like a private dinner with Chris Sullivan and Melanie Liburd, who star in NBC’s “This is Us,” the chance to accompany the zoo’s herpetology staff as they release endangered mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles into the wild, and the chance to throw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game.

“You can also do a little business networking and, who knows, this is a place of hope, so you might even find a husband or wife,” Hennessy added with a laugh.

This year’s ball will honor renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle, Glen Curado, founder and chief executive of World Harvest Charities and Family Services, and Connie Morgan, recently retired GLAZA president.

The festive evening will culminate with Duff Goldman from Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes,” overseeing the presentation of a dessert extravaganza.

For more information and to get tickets for this year’s Beastly Ball, visit

David Laurell may be reached by email at or (818) 563-1007.

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