Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis made a surprise appearance at the American Ireland Fund dinner in New York, where he made an impassioned plea for funding for the Wicklow Hospice near where he lives in Ireland.

In emotional terms Day-Lewis described his mother’s death in a hospice environment in Britain. He stated his mother had received very poor care in a regular hospital until moving to a hospice situation.

Jill Balcon died of a brain tumor in 2009, and Day-Lewis said her death made him aware of the amazing work that hospices carry out. He said she died happily surrounded by family and concerned caregivers.

Day-Lewis said that the Wicklow Hospice, which is still in the planning phase, would be a vital resource for the community in which he lives, and he profoundly thanked the American Ireland Fund for agreeing to help fund its creation.

The record breaking Oscar winner said hospice care and respect for the dying and their family is a critical need in society. He also pointed out that his wife Rebecca’s father, the famed playwright Arthur Miller, had benefitted from hospice care at the end of his life.

Day-Lewis’s appearance at the dinner at the Grand Hyatt on Thursday evening surprised the 1,100 present for the biggest Irish gala of the year in the U.S.

The gala exceeded its target by $500,000 and in total raised $3 million in support of The Worldwide Ireland Funds’ Promising Ireland Campaign to assist Irish not for profit bodies.

“Having Daniel Day Lewis present was remarkable,“ said president & CEO of The Worldwide Funds Kieran McLoughlin.

“We were delighted to have such a celebrated actor show his support and solidarity with Ireland.”

Some 1,100 guests from the spheres of business, the arts, and politics attended the 38th annual gala at the Grand Hyatt New York. It is the largest of the 100 global events hosted annually by The Worldwide Ireland Funds.

The event honored Loretta Brennan Glucksman, outgoing chairman of the American Ireland Fund.  Under her 18-year tenure, the fund has become one of the largest private funding sources for not-for-profits across the island of Ireland. The award also recognized Brennan Glucksman’s personal generosity in having contributed over $27 million to the American Ireland Fund in support of numerous causes and institutions.

Also honored was James E. Quinn, former president of Tiffany & Company, in recognition of his corporate leadership, philanthropy and commitment to Ireland.

Quinn is a longtime supporter of the American Ireland Fund as well as the Michael Smurfit School of Business, Ireland’s leading business school.

The 2013 gala was chaired by John Fitzpatrick, CEO of Fitzpatrick Hotel Group NA, and Adrian M. Jones, managing director of Goldman, Sachs & Co.

“The generosity and commitment of our donors is the engine behind tonight’s milestone event,” said McLoughlin.

“Tonight brings the total amount raised since our inception in 1976 to over $445 million, with almost one third of that total raised in just the past four and a half years alone. The Promising Ireland Campaign has now provided vital support to more than 350 outstanding charities in Ireland and around the world.”