In March 2014, 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.
The Magdalene daughter who brought justice to her mother: Mari Steed
The Irish trad musician helping orphans in the slums of Bangkok: Donie Carroll
The genealogical detective and champion of our ancestors: Megan Smolenyak
A voice for the voiceless, offering spiritual and emotional support for deportees: Sister Pat Murphy
The selfless New Jersey firefighter: Kyle Hughes
The backbone of the neighborhood, a behind-the-scenes hero: Doc Walsh
The senior who gave up his Meals on Wheels so someone else could eat: William McCormick
The 14-year-old Irish American cowboy who dug in deep during devastating floods: Tommy Patrick
The woman looking out for New York’s 52,000 homeless: Mary Brosnahan
Helping low-wage workers save for the future: Ben Mangan
The high school basketball coach who could have gone pro but stayed: Bob Hurley
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
The Irish human rights activist behind Queens’ inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade: Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy
The Philadelphia nun who advocates for the homeless and mentally ill: Sister Mary Scullion
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.
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.
The chef giving jobs - and hope - to disabled adults: Kathleen Foley-Hughes.
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.
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.
Ireland's star athlete coaching in the US: Coach Susan Moran.
The mother battling the law for her son's health and wellness: Becky Kelleher.
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.
The artist helping kids in underserved communities unleash creative potential: Patrick Dougher and the Groundswell Mural Project.
Philadelphia's busiest friend of Ireland: Michael Bradley.
The fallen friend whose legacy of kindness lives on: Daniel Gorman Jaffke.
* Originally published in 2014.