Oakland A’s star pitcher Sean Doolittle, a 2014 All Star, and his girlfriend, Eireann Dolan, decided to throw a very special Thanksgiving dinner in honor of their Irish emigrant ancestors.
In response to the recent statements by some U.S. governors that they would not permit Syrian refugees fleeing the persecution of ISIS to seek asylum in their states, they hosted 17 Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving.
Teaming up with the Syrian Community Network in Chicago, Dolan’s home turf, the couple held the dinner last week, on the day before Thanksgiving, for the 17 Syrian refugee families who have settled in the Chicago area since ISIS invaded their country. They were joined by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and by Dolan’s family, who were still grieving the loss of their patriarch, Eireann’s grandfather James “Grumpy” Dolan, just three weeks earlier.
As Eireann explained in a blog post about the dinner, Grumpy Dolan – an Irish immigrant – was the inspiration behind the Thanksgiving dinner.
“The state I’m originally from (Illinois), the state my boyfriend Sean is originally from (New Jersey), and the state in which we both currently live (Arizona). All three states joined so many others in saying they would turn away these refugees because they are afraid some of them might be ISIS sympathizers,” she wrote on her blog, in a post titled “A Better Idea.”
“There are 12 million people, half of whom are children, who have fled their homes in Syria escaping ISIS and civil war. Before ISIS, many faced mass executions of near-genocidal proportions under the Assad regime in Syria. Many others escaped a life of religious persecution. But they were all desperate enough to have to leave their home with no promise of another home.
“I’ve never felt that desperate. I’ve never had to choose homelessness. But I know some people who have. My family came to this country from a poor and war-torn Ireland within the last century,” she wrote, before sharing her family’s history, creating a poignant parallel between their journey and that of the Syrian refugees today.
“My grandfather James Dolan’s (a.k.a. “Grumpy”) family left County Cavan in the north of Ireland, which had been home to many of the battles. Considered by many to be a terrorist organization, the Irish Republican Army had brought many of their active rebellions and guerrilla warfare to their hometown. Many civilians died in what was considered an active rebellion against our own ally Great Britain.
“When they came to this country, it would have been very easy for them to be mistaken for those who would wish to commit terrorist activities when all they really wanted to do was to give their children a better life free from war and poverty.
“They settled in Chicago. They were met with distrust, animosity, and scorn.”
“Chicago is so lucky to have 17 Syrian refugee families now officially calling it home. We thought we'd officially welcome them with one of our greatest American traditions, Thanksgiving. Thank you to Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Burke for joining the party!” she wrote on Instagram.
Chicago is so lucky to have 17 Syrian refugee families now officially calling it home. We thought we'd officially welcome them with one of our greatest American traditions, Thanksgiving. Thank you to Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Burke for joining the party! If you'd like to sponsor a refugee family in Chicago, link is in my bio #refugeeswelcome
Later in her post about the dinner, referring to the engraving on the Statue of Liberty, Dolan wrote “My grandparents and great-grandparents were very poor, they were very tired, and as far as I could tell, they were lifelong huddlers. They probably would not have appreciated being called wretched refuse, but surely they’d been called worse.
“Grumpy’s family arrived to limited job prospects, poor housing options, and politicians who thought them inferior to the Americans already living here.
“But they stayed in this country because they loved its traditions. They loved White Sox baseball, they loved schools for their children, they loved their neighbors, they loved the music, food, movies, but most of all they loved the opportunity.
“You would have to be head over heels in love with a country to counteract the fact that some of its people actively discriminated against you.”
She also noted that Thanksgiving was her grandfather’s favorite holiday – an American tradition he came to embrace as his own.
A similar dinner was held in California by the International Rescue Committee in the Bay Area.
For more information, check out Dolan’s blog or visit the page for the Syrian Community Network.