Laura Anderson

Laura Anderson at the 2013 Shedd Gala at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago on Saturday, June 8, 2013. (Beth Rooney, Chicago Tribune / June 8, 2013)

Upon entering the Shedd Aquarium's "Be Like Bond: The Stingray Affair" gala, attendees filed past a 20,000-gallon pool filled with stingrays that raised their heads like puppies for petting. The "touch experience" was a highlight of this annual black-tie fundraiser June 8 that sold out, with about 910 guests in attendance.

The James Bond theme offered patrons the opportunity to enjoy a "Shaken Not Stirred" reception, an aquatic show "For Your Eyes Only" and a dinner among the animals during the "Live and Let Dine" portion of the evening.

The Shedd's new "One World" show, which premiered that night and was emceed by veteran broadcaster Bill Kurtis, featured Beluga whales waving their flippers at the crowd, a sea lion doing handstands and dolphins leaping in unison. The video presentation opened with a hilarious portrayal of James Bond by Kurtis and included a heartwarming story of a blind sea lion, Cruz, who had been shot and was rescued and rehabilitated by the Shedd. Before introducing the live auction, Kurtis noted, "The Shedd Aquarium has the largest attendance of any aquarium in the world."

Dinner was served throughout the exhibition space as guests "dined among the fishes." The dramatic table decor by Heffernan Morgan Designs included 2-foot-tall crystal vases lighted from within and topped with towering palm leaves and greenery.

The evening continued on the lakeside terrace with dancing to the Gold Coast All Stars. Inside the tent, a light show rivaled the fireworks display that brightened the night sky.

Chaired by Laura Ferris Anderson, the event raised more than $1.2 million to continue the aquarium's mission to support its top five initiatives: animal care; conservation, science and research; education; sustainability; and community access. More than 32,500 animals are housed at the Shedd.

Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved with many local organizations, including some whose events she covers

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