30 Irish Americans making the world a better place


For the month of March, IrishCentral decided to tap into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. Over the course of these four weeks that officially celebrate all of the many contributions Irish Americans have made throughout history, we wanted to get to know the people across the U.S. who today are making phenomenal differences in their respective fields.

We asked you, our readers, to point the way, and we were astounded by the results. The stories of each and every one of the nominees were both humbling and inspiring, and it made us proud to see how many people are doing good, important work.

As challenging as it was, we selected 30 people for the Unsung Heroes series and have been publishing one of their stories each day this month. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators, from wise-beyond-their-years high school baseball and hockey teams to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.

Check out all of their inspiring stories below, and be sure to let us know next year about the unsung heroes in your community.

Mari Steed brought justice to the Magdalene women.

The Magdalene daughter who brought justice to her mother: Mari Steed

Donie Carroll at the Mercy Center for abandoned and abused children in the Klong Toey slum of Bangkok.

The Irish trad musician helping orphans in the slums of Bangkok: Donie Carroll

Megan Smolenyak, the genealogist who traced President Obama's Irish roots, with the president during his visit to Ireland in 2011.

The genealogical detective and champion of our ancestors: Megan Smolenyak

Sister Pat Murphy (right) and her partner Sister JoAnn Persch

A voice for the voiceless, offering spiritual and emotional support for deportees: Sister Pat Murphy

Unsung hero Kyle Hughes at work.

The selfless New Jersey firefighter: Kyle Hughes

West Roxbury's Unsung Hero, Doc Walsh.

The backbone of the neighborhood, a behind-the-scenes hero: Doc Walsh

Unsung hero William McCormick of Roanoke, Virginia.

The senior who gave up his Meals on Wheels so someone else could eat: William McCormick

14-year-old Irish American cowboy Tommy Patrick.

The 14-year-old Irish American cowboy who dug in deep during devastating floods: Tommy Patrick

Mary Brosnahan, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless.

The woman looking out for New York’s 52,000 homeless: Mary Brosnahan

Helping low-wage workers save for the future: Ben Mangan

Bob Hurley - for 42 years and counting, the coach of St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City.

The high school basketball coach who could have gone pro but stayed: Bob Hurley

Sister Tesa Fitzgerald of Hour Children is helping women build new lives after prison.

The nun helping women build new lives after prison: Sister Tesa Fitzgerald

After her niece’s senseless death, she changed Chicago law to put AEDs in public places: Lynn Donegan

Unsung Hero: Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy.

The Irish human rights activist behind Queens’ inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade: Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy

Philly nun an advocate for homeless and mentally ill persons the Unsung Hero, Sister Mary Scullion.

The Philadelphia nun who advocates for the homeless and mentally ill: Sister Mary Scullion

The staff of Centruion Ministries in Princeton, NJ. Front Row: Janet Baxendale, Jim McCloskey, Kate Germond, Lisa Kurtz, Kim Lundquist. Back Row: Dale Jacobs, Alan Maimon, Constance Monroe, Nick O’Connell.

The man proving the innocence of those who were wrongfully convicted and saving them from life - or even death – sentences: Jim McCloskey and Centurion Ministries.

Pauline Turley, Liam Neeson, Julie Feeney and Aidan Connolly.

The Irish arts organization making big waves - and a big move: Pauline Turley, Aidan Connolly and the Irish Arts Center.

The professor who has devoted her life to teaching Irish history, and setting the record straight: Maureen Murphy.

Kathleen Foley-Hughes, the founder of Ada's Cafe, with her son Charlie.

The chef giving jobs - and hope - to disabled adults: Kathleen Foley-Hughes.

Brother Bob Malloy, Detroit's unsung hero.

The priest ministering to the poor and disabled of Detroit: Brother Bob Malloy.

The 102-year-old still active in the Ancient Order of Hibernians: Kitty Geissler.

Unsung Hero: Father Jeremiah McSweeney.

The Irish priest changing lives in West Virginia: Father Jeremiah McSweeney.

The father and daughter team taking the martial arts world by storm: Don and Heather Madden.

Unsung Hero Susan Moran playing for St. Joseph's University.

Ireland's star athlete coaching in the US: Coach Susan Moran.

Becky Kelleher is today's Unsung Hero.

The mother battling the law for her son's health and wellness: Becky Kelleher.

The East Boston High School baseball and hockey teams presented the Savage family with $5,000 for 3-year-old Alisha's cancer treatments.

The East Boston high schoolers who raised $5,000 for an Irish toddler fighting cancer: The baseball and hockey teams of East Boston High School.

Patrick Dougher, as photographed by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York.

The artist helping kids in underserved communities unleash creative potential: Patrick Dougher and the Groundswell Mural Project.

Today's unsung hero is Michael Bradley, Philadelphia's friend to Ireland.

Philadelphia's busiest friend of Ireland: Michael Bradley.

Daniel Gorman Jaffke, the Unsung Hero whose legacy of kindness lives on.

The fallen friend whose legacy of kindness lives on: Daniel Gorman Jaffke.