Friends Carry Mercy Home Banner, Traditions for St. Patrick’s Day

Friends Carry Mercy Home Banner, Traditions for St. Patrick’s Day

While March weather in Chicago is notoriously unpredictable, one thing you can rely on every year at this time is that Mercy Home and its supporters will be out in force, spreading the word about our work with kids and families while celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and parade weekend with gusto.

Every year Mercy Home uses the excitement and activities around the holiday to reach new audiences and encourage them to support our mission through our March for Kids campaign. As always, we are grateful to so many wonderful friends and partners who continue to champion this cause and who joined us for our St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

The night before the first marchers set foot onto Columbus Drive, a message of solidarity with our mission was emblazoned across the downtown skyline. Just past the end of the parade route at Randolph St. stands the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower, known for lighting its office towers in support of great causes or significant events in the city. On Friday and Saturday night, the tower’s window lights were arranged to spell MERCY HOME to help promote our March for Kids efforts to the multitudes of visitors to downtown Chicago last weekend. Every year since 2012, the building has displayed a message in support of our campaign during parade weekend.

Columbus Drive was the scene on Saturday for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, sponsored by the Plumbers Local 130 UA. Fr. Scott, Mercy Home board members, coworkers, and a few dozen of our closest friends marched northward against gale-force winds, greeting the crowds with beads, candy, and other give aways. There were shamrocks and sashes, hot cocoa and hand warmers, smiling faces and laughter, and a flotilla of friends clad in emerald green Mercy Home gear and waving signs promoting March for Kids. Joining us on the float were our good friends from Chicago country radio station US99. Morning show hosts Melissa McGurren and Austin Huff waved and revved up the throngs of spectators who lined the route.

Also marching with us were our friends from Cork County in Ireland. The group came to the Home on Friday for a brief tour and a presentation about our work. Mercy Home’s relationship with County Cork is an outgrowth of an international trade partnership between the governments in Cork County, Ireland and Cook County, Illinois. The partnership celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The bond between County Cork and Mercy Home, its adopted local charitable organization, grows stronger each year. The relationship has resulted in many memorable trips for our youth to visit Ireland, where they are graciously hosted by our friends in Cork.

For the third straight year, we then gathered at Venue SIX10 on Michigan Avenue, just across Grant Park from the parade, for our big Post Parade Party. There, guests enjoyed great food and beverages, games and prizes for the kids, music from St. Stephen’s Green and traditional dance performances by the Sheila Healy Academy of Irish Dance and Trinity Academy of Irish Dance. And no St. Patrick’s Day celebration would be complete without a march-in from the world-famous Shannon Rovers, whose bags and pipes filled the airy two-story venue with echoes of Ireland.

Also injecting some classic Irish fun and excitement into the late afternoon was an invitation to join certified Irish dance teacher Kathleen Flanagan in The Walls of Limerick. Flanagan, whose is the sister of Molly Riley in our Advancement department, conducted the audience participation dance to the delight of everyone in the crowd, young and old.

After an introduction and a message of gratitude from Mercy Home President Fr. Scott Donahue, our good friend Peter O’Brien, this year’s parade Grand Marshal, and Patrick Kennedy, the parade’s Guest of Honor and co-founder of the Kennedy Forum, delivered an inspirational message about the critical importance of mental health awareness and support. Fr. Scott and Mercy Home participate in the Forum’s work to combat stigma in mental health and encourage greater access to quality care. Kennedy founded the national organization in honor of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy’s landmark Community Mental Health Act of 1963. Peter O’Brien later founded the Illinois chapter of the Kennedy Forum. This year’s Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade theme was “Mental Health is Essential.”

Our Post Parade Party would not have been possible without our amazing sponsors, coworkers, and volunteers. Special thanks to our volunteers from DePaul College Prep’s National Honor Society, who ran our games section. To Rich Daniels and the City Lights Orchestra for providing the audio-visual for the event. To all board members who helped sell tickets and to everyone who attended.

See photos from our Post Parade Party

The celebration continued the next day at the South Side Irish Parade, said to be the largest community-based St. Patrick’s Day Parade outside of Dublin. Young women from our Walsh Girls Campus joined us on the float as in past years. The parade route ends within a few blocks of the girls home. Radio partner US99 joined us Sunday as well, with weekday afternoon DJ Scotty Kay entertaining the crowd. In fact, to help pass time while waiting for the parade to kick, Kay and our girls enjoyed an impromptu dance party near the float.

While our radio partner joined us in celebrating the weekend, they’ve also been promoting our March for Kids campaign with both pre-recorded PSAs and on-air mentions since the beginning of the month. Similarly, our long-time television partner ABC7 helped reach new audiences with news of our program, running spots featuring weatherman Greg Dutra since March 1, and also welcoming Mercy Home Communications Director Mark Schmeltzer on their parade morning newscast to tell viewers more about how we help kids and families and encouraging the public to donate in support of Mercy Home.

While so much of the awareness raising about Mercy Home surrounds the parade weekend and the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, the critical fundraising aspect of the program runs throughout the month. The primary donation vehicle is at Mercy Home’s web site. Contributions to from now until March 31 will be matched by a generous donor, making this an especially opportune time to support the Home. Donations are being promoted not only through our media partners, but also via an email campaign, social media posts and ads, print and digital ads in area newspapers, and ads on four donated digital billboards throughout the city and suburbs. Special thanks to the Irish American News and Shout Outdoor Media for their support.

Mercy Home’s March for Kids has been held annually under different names, since 1996 when it was known as A Touch O’ Green. For years, it was known as Shamrocks for Kids before being renamed and expanded in 2014. The annual public outreach, awareness, and fundraising effort was rooted in our participation in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and has always leveraged the energy and events occasioned by St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago to raise awareness of work on behalf of kids and families in crisis and support that makes it possible. After a few years hiatus, the Post Parade Party was set to return in 2020 but was cancelled with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it was able to return strong at its new venue in 2022 and has grown thanks to the support of so many, for which we are deeply grateful.

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