Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Pittsburgh Gala 2024

The luck of the Irish was in full effect when The Ireland Funds Pittsburgh Gala was held at Acrisure Stadium on Wednesday evening.

The night kicked off with Irish entertainment and a feeling of being on the Emerald Isle, with a wee bit of football as well.

There were special guests on hand, including Geraldine Byrne Nason, the Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, and Jarlath Burns, the President of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

“We have some very distinguished guests who were on hand,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II, who has spearheaded a lot of the Pittsburgh dinner after his father’s passing. “It’s great to see people from Ireland supporting the Pittsburgh event. It made it a very special night to have them attend. The GAA team also came through our offices and facilities for a tour. They have been a great partner for what we are trying to do in Ireland.”

It was a time to celebrate and honor those who are impacting the Pittsburgh region, in the business sector and within the community, in a manner that is befitting with the tradition and values of The Ireland Funds.

“It’s great to carry on the tradition of The Ireland Funds,” said Rooney. “We’re fortunate to have so many other people in the community who have been willing to be a part of committees and support the event. It’s great to see it continue. We are fortunate this year to have some great awardees.”

The awardees Rooney referred to include, Bill Demchak, the chairman and CEO of The PNC Financial Services Group, and Charlie Batch and Latasha Wilson-Batch, who founded and run the Best of the Batch Foundation, and are staples in the Pittsburgh region who have been making a difference for years.

Demchak received the 2024 Daniel M. Rooney Ambassador’s Award, presented to an individual who reflects Ambassador Rooney’s leadership, love of Pittsburgh and contribution to the community.

Demchak, a top leader at PNC for more than a decade, has evolved PNC into a national banking powerhouse and has had a major impact across the community. He also sees the importance of giving back to Pittsburgh in a charitable fashion, along with his wife Debbie. The couple funds a scholarship program through the Pittsburgh Promise to get more Black educators into the Pittsburgh Public School system. He is also on the board of directors of the Extra Mile Education Foundation, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, among others.

“Bill has done great work at PNC, one of our most successful companies for sure,” said Rooney. “He has also taken a leadership role in the community in a lot of different ways, most recently with some of the efforts he has led in terms of our homeless population and how to address that situation. He hasn’t been afraid to jump into tough issues in the community and provide leadership and resources to get some improvements there.”

Charlie Batch and Latasha Wilson-Batch received the Patricia R. Rooney Community Impact Award, given to leaders who have produced successful organizational initiatives in response to a significant contemporary problem.

“It’s humbling,” said Batch. “Being around the Steelers organization for so many years, and having the opportunity to talk to Mrs. Rooney, and then see the things she did in the community and didn’t want to be highlighted for it. She did so much behind the scenes and her impact is still being felt today. For us to win an award in her name, it’s truly humbling.

“When you look back at the Ireland Funds and how important this gala is not just to the City of Pittsburgh, but to those in Ireland as well, and all the amazing work that was done. The people who were here tonight believe in the vision of the organization, what they are trying to accomplish. I keep saying it, but we are humbled by it.

“Growing up here and seeing what the Steelers organization has done as a whole and benefiting from it as a kid growing up in Homestead, and then ultimately having the opportunity to play for the Steelers and Mr. Rooney and share the time with him and having conversations. He knew how important it was to give back to the community and he knew where my heart was. Anything that involved the City of Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas he allowed me the opportunity to go out and do it and supported it all of the time. All these years later, to be a part of the Rooney legacy with this award from the Ireland Funds is truly amazing.”

Batch came to the Steelers, from the Detroit Lions, in 2002 and spent 11 seasons playing for his hometown team. During his 15-year NFL career he played in 81 games, completing 908 passes for 11,085 yards and 61 touchdowns, and was a member of the Steelers Super Bowl XL and XLIII championship teams. Latasha is the executive director of the foundation, involved in every aspect of the operation and helping to drive the day-to-day and long-term planning. She is also a Ladies Council Liaison for the NFLPA, which helps to educate, engage and empower NFL players’ wives and significant others. Both serve on the boards of numerous foundations and charitable organizations throughout the Western Pennsylvania area.

The Best of the Batch Foundation was founded in 1999, fulfilling a promise Batch made after his younger sister, Danyl Settles, was shot and killed in 1996, in the crossfire between rival gangs in their Homestead neighborhood. Through the Best of the Batch Foundation, they have established themselves as true difference makers, people the community and region can depend on, to be there for the youth in particular to help give them a better future. The foundation has been serving the area now for 25 years and has been built into a force to serve others by the two.

“What Charlie and Latasha have done is remarkable,” said Rooney. “They have been at it for many years. That’s why it’s great we are honoring them now as they open their new building. They have served some of the young people down through the years. It’s been great to see. I am happy we are able to recognize the great work they are doing.”

The Best of the Batch Foundation provides year-round educational programming to more than 3,800 children ranging in ages from 4 to 18, across 22 school districts in nine Southwestern Pennsylvania counties. The foundation outgrew their original home, moving into a state-of-the-art 33,000 square foot facility that they oversaw the construction of.

“It starts with Latasha and her putting her imprint on it, allowing us to grow together in the manner we are,” said Batch. “Also, the people who believe in what we are doing. When you have so many who believe in what you are doing, it lets you know you are doing something right. We are grateful for that. It’s about the kids who we serve. Being able to see the smiles on their faces when they walk through our doors, it’s a blessing to be a part of.”

Late Steelers Chairman and former United States Ambassador to Ireland, Daniel Rooney, along with late Pittsburgh businessman Anthony J.F. O’Reilly, created The Ireland Fund in 1976 with the trinity of goals being peace, culture and charity. The organization later merged with the American Irish Foundation, to create the American Ireland Funds, the leading charitable organization benefiting Ireland, which has now become known as The Ireland Funds.

Rooney was a driving force in the success the organization had seen over the years, helping with The Ireland Funds’ mission of promoting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development throughout Ireland. During Rooney’s time as United States Ambassador to Ireland he visited every county in Ireland, helping to bring peace between the North and the South, something he took great pride in.

“People recognize that Ireland is better as far as bringing peace,” Dan Rooney said prior to his passing. And that is what he wanted, what he dreamt about, for the country his family immigrated from. He wanted peace.

The organization is one that isn’t just active in Pittsburgh but has nationwide and international support. From New York to San Francisco, and as far reaching as Australia and Japan, as it has reached a total of 12 countries. All a result of Rooney’s passion for helping Ireland.


Write up courtesy of Teresa Varley,

Photography: Karl Roser


Theresa Kaufman

Theresa Kaufman Events

1133 Prospect Road Pittsburgh PA 15227

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