4 well dressed people in front of a banner for the Nature Conservatory

Nature Conservancy: An Adventure-Filled Gala







Six of Chicago’s canniest young leaders, dedicated to the message of The Nature Conservancy, recently gathered a sold out crowd of over 500 guests for the organizations 60th anniversary celebration, raising $1 million. Susu and Flip Block, Mirja and Ted Haffner, and Coco and Ethan Meers—all students of their parents own brilliant philanthropy—signed on to their key roles due to The Nature Conservancy’s work to protect lands and waters.


Co-chairs Flip and Susu Block, Ted and Mirja Haffner, and Ethan and Coco Meers.

The décor at the Northerly Island destination matched the mission: ceiling projections of trickling streams, stampeding bison, and forests, representative of spaces where the Conservancy works. “Living” trees were created by men and women walking on stilts, covered in flora, sometimes standing still and other times serving as moving art.


A “living” tree sihouetted against fern imagery projected on the ceiling.


Connie and Dennis Keller with Mayor Emanuel.

TNC Illinois State Director Michelle Carr welcomed Mayor Rahm Emanuel who spoke of protecting Chicago and the planet from the effects of climate change and other environmental issues. Michelle added recently:

“We are science-based international activists who live out our commitment to get things done so that people and nature thrive. I think that motivates this whole new generation of leadership.

“Guests received “passports” with interactive assignments, weaving in information about why we work in these places where we work around the world.”


Ethan and Coco Meers with Susu and Flip Block.

Susu Block commented on the evening’s great results:

“In addition to celebrating 60 years of The Nature Conservancy in Illinois’ conservation successes statewide, this event was meant to educate those new to TNC and provide a glimpse into our work for the next generation of supporters.

“The evening illustrated the organization’s mission and how we can all work together to affect positive change on a local and global level. This awareness, in addition to the $1 million we raised through sponsorships, private donations, and attendance revenue, will allow The Nature Conservancy in Illinois to continue its work moving the needle in the right direction. We’re so thankful for the support.”


Michelle Carr and former mayor Richard Daley.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley also attended the event alongside as a host of other VIP guests, including Brenda Shapiro, Connie and Dennis Keller, Anne and Stephen Bent, Jamee Field Kane and Michael Kane, Caroline and Keating Crown, Errett and Julia Van Nice, Catherine and Mamadou Sarr, Vicki and Bruce Heyman, Amanda and George Hanley, Susan and Michael Canmann, Karen and Liam Krehbiel, Solveig Ovstebo and Morton Kvamme, and Marion Searle Rice and Tanner Rice.


Beth Drucker, Nancy Winter, and Connie Keller.

The Hamill family received the Conservation Legacy Award. Sylvia Winter Baggish, Jon Hamill, and Nancy Winter, Aaron Baggish where among the family members who came in from across the country to accept the award.

Beat Mix Music provided a short drum number through the crowd and DJ Ned Mower spun throughout the night. A raffle prize of a trip to the Amazon seemed a fitting offering for the dynamic organization.


Ethan Meers having fun with Jason Wortendyke, Jay Beidler, and Deborah Witzburg.


The decor.


Brenda Shapiro and Michelle Carr.


Kitty Elmer-Dewitt.


Janet, Genna, and Steve Armbrust.


Marion and Greg Wells.


Tracey Benford visits with friends.