The Event: On June 5, the riverbank at Merchandise Mart was awash with nearly 500 supporters for the Friends of the Chicago River’s annual Big Fish Ball. As the only organization solely dedicated to the Chicago River system, FCR has been working to improve the health of the river system for the benefit of people and wildlife since 1979.
Cause célèbre: “The Chicago River is our phenomenal resource not just for the city but the north branch, all through the suburbs and all the way to Northbrook,” said Larry Kaplan of Northbrook, board member. “It is a source of beauty as well as a source of recreation, ecology and environment that everyone should appreciate and enjoy.”
FCR Executive Director Margaret Frisbie added, “The Chicago River belongs to everybody; it is part of all of our communities and people can connect with the river by coming out and enjoying it but also by thinking of things that they can do at home that can help the river.”
Frisbie advocates being more conscious of water conservation, as well as choosing products at home without chemicals that might harm fish. “Sometimes people don’t realize that anything that goes down the drain at their house ends up in the Chicago River.”
FCR’s expansive educational outreach program, the Chicago River Schools Network, impacts nearly 17,000 students each year and teaches kids about science, nature and their connection to the Chicago River.
“Water is our most important resource,” said James C. Mark, Jr., of Naperville, gala co-chairman. “We owe it to the city to take advantage of the beauty but also to return it to its original state.”
Bottom line: The event raised more than $250,000 for the Chicago River; its largest fundraiser to date. Proceeds go towards education and projects to keep the river clean.