The Irish American community never misses the chance to help one of its own in need, a fact especially true last month when a benefit was held for a Kerryman who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. APRIL DREW, one of the organizers, said the event for PJ Flavin proved to be a proud day for the Irish.
It has been a busy week. My husband, John, and I are now only a week and a half away from welcoming our second addition to our growing family, and the excitement levels are brewing in the Mooney household.
I’ve been very relaxed about being prepared for this baby. Aside from having a crib in place and a few bits brought up from the basement, I’ve a list as long as my hand to get through in the next week or sooner if my husband has anything to do with it.
He is very concerned I may go earlier and keeps phoning me every day to ask me if I have my hospital bag packed and another bag ready for our 14-month-old, Colum.
He is right, of course, and I may very well get on that after I finish this article.
We’ve been busy, you see. You may have seen the front-page story in the Irish Voice three weeks ago.
Irish are the least romantic nation in Europe says new survey
A good friend of ours, PJ Flavin from Ballylongford, Co. Kerry, was in a terrible motorcycle accident last summer and as a result of the serious injuries he sustained that day was forced to have his right leg amputated from below the knee in August.
As soon as the extent of his injuries were made clear and the insurmountable medical costs that came with such procedures (and all those after) PJ’s friends immediately rallied around to get the ball rolling on a fundraiser.
After months of preparation the fundraiser took place at the Kerry Hall in Yonkers on January 29.
Words can’t express how blown away I was at the level of community spirit that was displayed that day. I knew from word on the street that the benefit would be big, but I had no idea just how big it would be.
From the minute Mass was over (said beautifully as always by Father Brian Coffey) the crowds poured in the door. There were members of the Kerrymen’s Association who as always are wonderful for supporting their own, there was a high visible presence of young families all there to support the cause, and there was no shortage of leather jackets dotted around the hall.
PJ had been riding with the Celtic Motorcycle Club for many years, and it was a pure testament to his character to see all his riding buddies (and some of those who have never even met him) turn up in their droves to support this cause.
From the road, passers-by may have thought there was a biker convention happening, and in one way I guess there was. It was fantastic to see so many motorcycle enthusiasts give up a day on the road for their friend.
As the day progressed and the nighttime darkness fell over the Kerry Hall droves of people from the Irish community (and some from other communities) kept pouring in.
I was in charge of the many raffles throughout the day, and the auction we had at nighttime. With the help of the wonderful Helen McGovern and Geraldine Gleeson there wasn’t one hitch, and we were busy ladies.
But it was the few moments in between taking money and selling tickets that I got to sit back and take it all in.
Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones or the fact that we’re moving home in three and a half months, but on several occasions I was becoming emotional just looking around the hall.
Over in the back corner you had the wonderful, hard working Mary Daly and her helpers providing food and sandwiches all day until late into the evening. Mary herself is constantly volunteering for fundraisers and goes above and beyond her call of duty. That warmed my heart knowing there are still such great people out there.
Then there were the musicians who came throughout the day to give their time. The variety of music was wonderful.
Mary Courtney kicked off the day getting the place warmed up for a lively evening ahead. Not long after Padraig Allen and the McLean Avenue Band had people jiving to the song “Galway Girl,” and an hour earlier Mary G and Tommy Flynn and the New York Showband had the crowd jigging and jiving. Later in the evening a seisiun from Marie, Dessie, Keith and Seanie and friends had the floor full with fundraiser attendees doing some set dancing.
And DJ Steve (of Behan’s fame) filled the blanks over the course of several hours playing exactly what the crowd wanted to hear. Not to mention later into the evening Big Girls Blouse (who donated a full three hours – not including set up – of their time for PJ), had the dance floor full.
But the musical part of the benefit wouldn’t have been a success without the hard work of Niall Callaghan, Margie Mulvihill and John Reynolds. Margie and John were at the hall from early morning until late into the evening, never once complaining and doing a fantastic job. Aside from providing a great seisiun, they also made sure all the other bands were set up and ready to go.
At many benefits we take it for granted that there will be music, but in all honesty how many of us want to give up time on our weekends anymore? It gave me goose bumps to see the outpouring of generosity from these super busy people and the fine music they provided.
Naturally there was dozens more people working super hard behind the scenes, including Donnchadh Costello, Joe Collins and the rest of the fundraising committee to ensure the day went as smoothly as possible.
Pat Buckley did a fantastic job with the raffles. A great Kerryman, Pat O’Donnell, took charge of the bar, and he and his staff made sure everyone’s throats were watered.
Community great Frank Brady also popped over for a few hours to host our very successful auction, and as always he did a fantastic job.
Friends of PJ provided kids entertainment, and this went down a treat. Then there were the older kids, many of them children of committee members, who did an awesome job selling raffle tickets on the floor. For sure without their enthusiasm and effort we wouldn’t have sold half as many tickets.
There were dozens of spot prizes donated by individuals and businesses for the day, and all the auction items came from donors both here and in Ireland.
And I could go on. Donations poured in from every corner.
People I know who don’t have much money and are finding things a little tight at the moment showed up to donate something to PJ’s cause. Others dug really deep into their pockets to help him out.
People came from all over. There was a gang down from Boston to support the benefit.
A lovely woman called Elizabeth took two buses from the city to get there, and a huge crowd left Pearl River for the day to come out and support the cause.
I kept thinking to myself -- if this was Ireland would there be such an outpouring of support?
Financially I know things are much tighter in Ireland, but would dozens of good people give up their time to help out? Would hundreds of people from the community come out on a Sunday afternoon and give their hard earned cash?
I’d like to think so, but it made me super proud that weekend to be part of this Irish community in Woodlawn and Yonkers.
I came home that night (feet sore) and spent an hour with John raving about how great Irish people really are when it comes down to it. I’m so proud to be Irish and even more so in New York.
I was sad (and shed a few light tears) thinking about this all coming to an end for us in three months. We move back to Ireland for good on May 21.
We will miss the sense of comradeship that was so obvious at the benefit. I just hope that we will see the same level of compassion and giving in Ireland when an occasion calls for it.
I then woke up the following morning (hoarse and very happy) with an email from the Aisling Irish Community Center to let us all know that every Tuesday from March onwards the center will be providing free luncheons to senior citizens of the community. Thanks to the generosity of local restaurants and shops this shows another fine example of the caring that goes into looking after our own in New York.
So that’s it for now. I’m off to play with my son, pack a bag for the hospital and if I don’t go into labor early you’ll hear from me again before I become a mother of two, God willing.