Parties: In The Swim

by Catherine Bigelow

Blue Marble Benefit

Cause: Aquarium of the Bay
Attendees: 175
Impact: Proceeds raised will assist the BayEcotarium conservation consortium.

It was a blue-carpet affair June 8 at Hayes Mansion in San Jose, where Aquarium of the Bay — a Smithsonian affiliate — celebrated its Blue Marble Benefit, which coincided with global World Ocean Day. Though located at Pier 39, this climate and living ocean conservation museum chose dry land upon which to celebrate its 25th anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the Bay Institute think tank.

Led by President and CEO George Jacob, the aquarium is now re suming its ambitious plan to transform and expand the attraction (purchased for $9.5 million by the nonprofit Bay Institute in 2009) into the BayEcotarium — a multipronged conservation group (that includes the Aquarium, Bay Academy, Sea Lion Center and Bay Model Alliance) dedicated to preserving and protecting the San Francisco Bay ecosystem. The fete featured remarks by George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece, and Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis. And the dinner program honored the work of marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle and founding aquarium director Michael Gallagher.

But the star of the show was 9-year-old Ryer Kadyk, who lives in Spokane, Washington, and adores river otters. He was thrilled when, in December 2020, he discovered the Aquarium of the Bay has an otter also named Ryer. From the aquarium’s online store, his mother bought him a stuffed otter toy for Christmas.

According to, during the COVID lockdown Kadyk was concerned that — without paying visitors — the otters and some 24,000 other sea creatures would suffer. So he emptied his piggy bank, donated his Christmas cash and asked his family for help, too. Kadyk sent a $750 check to the aquarium. He, too, was honored at the Blue Marble Benefit, where he assisted emcee Dan Ashley in the live auction, inspiring guests to bid an additional $75K.

The next day at the aquarium, Kadyk finally met his namesake in person — and was delighted to feed the critter fish cakes.

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