“Mr. Los Angeles” Tom Labonge to Posthumously Receive the Beastly Ball’s Betty White Conservation Hero Award at Annual Gala Happening at the Los Angeles Zoo
The Beastly Ball fundraising gala, lauded as one of the best parties in town, will return with actor, comedian, and host Joel McHale on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Los Angeles Zoo. McHale, who believes “there should be a great zoo in every great city and a great snack bar in that zoo,” will emcee this evening of fun and philanthropy in support of the Zoo and Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s shared mission to save species and connect people with nature. This progressive party starts “Down Under” in the Australia section and makes its way through the Zoo’s lush grounds, with guests sampling regional and global cuisine from popular L.A. eateries including Little Sister, Momed, Yakumi, Luminaries, El Cholo The Original, Pink’s Hot Dogs, and many more while sipping refreshing libations from Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Company, WhistlePig Whiskey Co., Lalo Spirits, and others along the way. Partygoers will learn firsthand about the Zoo’s animals and conservation efforts through engaging animal keeper chats and feedings; enjoy live performances and music; and view and bid on an array of amazing silent auction items. This after-hours stroll will culminate at the Zoo’s Treetops Terrace with the evening’s program along with dancing, drinks, and desserts by McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, Milk Jar Cookies, John Kelly Chocolates, and Krispy Kreme.
Honorees this year include longtime City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, affectionately known to many as “Mr. Los Angeles,” who will be honored posthumously with the Betty White Conservation Hero Award for his unwavering support of the L.A. Zoo and surrounding Griffith Park. LaBonge’s contributions include leading the effort to bring Reggie the alligator to the Zoo after being captured in Harbor City’s Lake Machado; building institutional support for the vast, state-of-the-art Elephants of Asia habitat; and playing a pivotal role in the creation of L.A. Zoo Lights, now an annual tradition for Los Angeles’ diverse communities. During his tenure, he also expanded Griffith Park by 500 acres, helping preserve precious wildlife habitat. As a vocal advocate, he shared his passion and love of the Zoo with everyone he met. LaBonge was first introduced to the L.A. Zoo as a young child growing up in Silver Lake, which ignited a passion for animals that continued throughout his forty-year career with the City of Los Angeles. He used his larger-than-life personality to bring attention to the L.A. Zoo and its importance as a community resource educating the children of Los Angeles.
“Tom represented the great Fourth Council District, which includes the Zoo, for 14 years,” comments Denise M. Verret, CEO & Zoo Director, Los Angeles Zoo. “He was a champion and advocate of the Zoo, not only at City Hall, but also in our community. Even though Tom retired as Councilmember in 2015, he was still an integral part of our Zoo Family, routinely visiting the Zoo and continuing to be our supporter,” Verret goes on to say. “And, like Betty White, he is remembered as a true friend of the Zoo and is deeply missed.”
Also honored at this year’s Ball is former GLAZA Trustee Diann H. Kim, who has dedicated the last 12 years to helping shape the future of the Zoo. As a lawyer and former managing partner at Scheper Kim & Harris LLP, Kim brought decades of legal expertise and knowledge to her role, helping create GLAZA’s strategic plan. Kim is also a long-time Zoo member, who enjoyed watching her daughter hone her passion for wildlife conservation at the Zoo as a student volunteer. In addition, she has made significant financial contributions through animal naming gifts and a leadership donation that spurred fundraising for the planned Angela Collier Garden at the Zoo. “My husband John and I are proud to support the Zoo for many reasons, not the least of which is inspiring and shaping bright young minds,” Kim states.
“Diann has been a leader on the GLAZA Board of Trustees, and her contributions have been transformative for the Zoo,” states Tom Jacobson, President, Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. “She has helped expand our Board and make it more diverse and was instrumental in the development of GLAZA’s vision for the future,” Jacobson goes on to say. “We’re sad she’s stepping down from the GLAZA Board but are grateful for her charm and wit over many years of inspirational leadership. Diann will always be part of our GLAZA family.”
Beastly Ball tickets are $1,500 per person, with individual and corporate sponsorship opportunities at higher levels also available. The Los Angeles Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Drive in Los Angeles’ historic Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Free parking is available. For tickets, information about mobile bidding, and additional information, visit lazoo.org/beastlyball or call (323) 486-4253.
Corporate Partners supporting the Beastly Ball include California Credit Union, Skechers, and U.S. Bank.