On Thursday November 2, 2017, over 500 friends of Ireland gathered to celebrate The Ireland Funds 33rd Annual Dinner Gala held at the Four Seasons Chicago.
Guests were led into the ballroom by the Shannon Rovers Pipe Band. Paddy Homan and Jim Cornelison sang a rousing rendition of the Irish and US National Anthems respectively.
Roseann Finnegan LeFevour, Midwest Director of The Ireland Funds; John Fitzpatrick, Chairman of The Ireland Funds America; and Kieran McLoughlin, Worldwide President and CEO of The Ireland Funds, thanked the supporters of the dinner and spoke about the mission and impact of the organization.
Mr. Andrew J. McKenna, Chairman Emeritus-McDonald’s Corporation and Schwarz Supply Source, presented the 2017 Ireland Funds Leadership Award to Mr. John McDonough, President and CEO, Chicago Blackhawks.
John F. McDonough joined the Blackhawks in 2007 as President and was named President and Chief Executive Officer on June 1, 2011. Under his guidance, in what Forbes Magazine has called the “The Greatest Sports-Business Turnaround Ever,” the Blackhawks have revitalized the team’s profile and re-energized its fan base. Since McDonough joined the Blackhawks, the team has won Stanley Cup titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015, becoming the first organization in the NHL’s salary cap era to capture three championships.
Prior to joining the Blackhawks, McDonough served as President of the Chicago Cubs. During his tenure, the Cubs won the 2007 National League Central Division while setting an all-time franchise attendance record.
John accepted the award reflecting on what it meant to grow up in an Irish American household. John’s father, also John McDonough, was born in Chicago in 1912, the youngest of 10 children of parents who emigrated from County Mayo, Ireland.
After guests enjoyed their dinner, Co-Chair of the Regional Advisory Committee, Devon Bruce introduced the special entertainment -The Undertones-the a cappella group from the University of Notre Dame. They were a huge hit with all.
Following the Undertones performance, Devon auctioned off two very special items. First was an incredible trip to Ireland made possible by United Airlines, Blue Book, Sheen Falls Lodge, Dromoland Castle and the incomparable Ballyfin. The second auction item was an unforgettable Blackhawks evening including four tickets, a post-game locker tour and a 2016/2017 autographed hockey stick.
Devon then acknowledged past honorees and spoke of the impact of The Ireland Funds on the entire island of Ireland. An impact he and his wife Yvonne have had the chance to see firsthand through their visits to projects supported by The Ireland Funds. He invited the guests to do the same by attending The Ireland Funds’ Conference which will be held in June of 2018 at Adare Manor.
Next, Chicago Chair Michael O’Halleran had the honor to present the 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Award to The Ryan Specialty Group.
The Ryan Specialty Group was founded in 2010 by Patrick G. Ryan, the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Aon Corporation. Headquartered in Chicago, Ryan Specialty Group has approximately 1700 employees throughout North America, the UK and Europe.
The company’s phenomenal start has been the result of organic growth further cultivated through strategic acquisitions.
Pat and Shirley Ryan were one of the original founders of The Ireland Funds in Chicago. This award recognized the incredible philanthropic work of the Ryan Specialty Group and of their founder, Pat Ryan.
Mr. Ryan accepted the award on behalf of The Ryan Specialty Group. In addition to recognizing his team led by Mr. Tim Turner and Mr. Terry McCann he told the story of Shirley Ryan being the Chairwoman of the first Ireland Funds Chicago Dinner, 33 years ago. It was a piece of institutional history enjoyed by all.
The evening concluded with an invitation to an after-party featuring Paddy Homan and the Chicago Reel.
A wonderful evening was enjoyed by all but the real winners of the dinner, however, are the life-changing projects that will be supported because of the funds raised at the dinner. Thank you to all our generous supporters for making this evening possible.