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Zoo Friends of Houston

Zoo Friends of Houston, Inc. is a special group of exceptional people committed to raising funds to support the Houston Zoo. Operating with no paid staff, our fundraising success depends entirely on our members’ diligence and dedication. Zoo friends has raised over $25 million for the creation of specific projects and buildings, the acquisition of Zoo animals, support of the veterinary hospital, habitat renovations, conservation and education programs, and the establishment of endowment funds.

History of Zoo Friends

Bu, a beloved Houston Zoo rhino, arrived in 1971 with the help of Zoo Friends.

In 1969, several civically-minded women in Houston recognized a critical need to raise private funds to help support a period of new construction and expansion at the Houston Zoo. In response, these dedicated women founded Zoo Friends of Houston, Inc., a group of Active, Associate, and Contributing members committed to providing broad support for the Zoo. With around 40 members, incoming Prospective members make a three-year commitment to work throughout the year to support the annual Zoo Ball fundraising event.

When the Zoo was privatized by the City of Houston in 2002, Zoo Friends recognized that the Zoo faced new challenges and that fundraising efforts would remain vital to its success. From 2002-2013, Zoo Friends has coordinated seven Zoo Balls and five Zoo Friends Family Parties to further that effort. The Zoo Ball is a fun-filled affair that is among the top fundraising events for the Houston Zoo. Corporations, foundations, and individual donors join Houston’s finest to put on a uniquely-themed gala with quality entertainment, cuisine, and animal encounters.

Guests dressed to celebrate Zoo Ball 2013 – Caddyshack Gone Wild!

Zoo Ball 2013 – Thank You Zoo Friends!

For more than 45 years, Zoo Friends of Houston has dedicated countless hours to raising funds to support the Houston Zoo. Zoo Ball 2013 was held April 19 and successfully celebrated the Zoo and golf with the theme “Caddyshack Gone Wild.” Co-Chairs Debbie Chenevert, Anne Freeman, and Amy Reeves were pleased to honor Bobbie and John Nau for all they have done for the Zoo over the years. The Ball was a fun evening full of golf games, an amazing auction, and fabulous fare. And Zoo Friends Lifetime Member Jane Block was the night’s dancing diva. The Houston Zoo family extends big THANKS to the co-chairs, Zoo Friends President Jackie Sharbrough, and all who helped in planning another spectacular Zoo Ball.

A Very Special Thank You to Zoo Ball 2013 Underwriters

Tess and Tucker, two elephants who benefit from the generous support of Zoo Friends.


Zoo Ball 2014
Welcome to the Jungle
Friday, May 9
7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Zoo Ball 2014 Chairs: Mignon Gill and Kelly Sklar

Tease your hair, get out your leather, and join us at the Houston Zoo for Zoo Ball 2014! Welcome to the Jungle will be a crazy 80′s-filled night. Help Zoo Friends of Houston, along with Houston Zoo Board of Directors, celebrate our 45th fundraiser with a night filled with your favorite music videos, parachute pants, and the band SKYROCKET! Proceeds from Zoo Ball 2014 will support the Zoo’s education and conservation programs.

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Underwriting and Sponsorship Opportunities

Click here for a list of underwriter benefits and a mail-in form.

A Very Special Thank You to Zoo Ball 2014 Underwriters 

Highlights of Zoo Friends Contributions

The projects and activities supported by Zoo Friends’ contributions over the years are too numerous to list in their entirety! Here are just a few highlights:

  • Zoo Friends has been an instrumental part in the transformation of the Zoo for nearly half of the Zoo’s history and remains its single largest private donor.
  • Over the years, Zoo Friends fundraising has brought many animals to the Zoo family for the enjoyment and education of all Houstonians, including white rhinoceros, gorilla, Siberian tigers, cheetahs, and countless exotic birds and fish.
  • The Zoo Ball and Family Party events helped to provide the support for the original modernized animal exhibits, converting them into more naturalistic habitats for improved animal care.
  • Zoo Friends support also helps Zoo staff to participate in critical conservation projects across the region and around the world. Zoo Friends donations are helping the Zoo realize conservation results for Houston toads and Attwater’s prairie chickens in Texas as well as amphibians in Central American, apes in Africa, and carnivores in Asia.
  • Zoo Friends of Houston has been a partner in ensuring superior care for our animal ambassadors through fundraising for the Denton Cooley Animal Hospital as well as environmentally-appropriate habitat upgrades.
  • Zoo Friends has supported the continual beautification of the Houston Zoo through many horticultural enhancements and several significant sculptures, including the enormous elephant which welcomes guests as the Zoo’s Medical Center entrance.
  • Zoo Friends gifts have underwritten the Zoo’s educational efforts for generations – from Zoo Mobile to materials and supplies to Zoo Guide books for guests.

Other Recent Zoo Friends Events

Private Preview Party of TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights
Friday, November 15, 2013
Hosted by Elizabeth Allen, Mignon Gill, and Kelly Sklar

For more information about Zoo Friends, please contact:
Zoo Friends of Houston, Inc.
1513 Cambridge Houston, TX 77030
(713) 533-6584