From the moment guests arrived at The Adolphus Hotel on March 7, 2020 for The Ireland Funds Texas Emerald Ball, they were surrounded by all things Irish, including the décor, beverages, entertainment and honorees. The annual event raises funds for the support of hundreds of charities and causes across the island of Ireland and around the world. This year, at the request of honoree Gary Kelly, a portion of the funds raised also benefited Plano’s Emily’s Place.
Eugene M. McQuade, The Ireland Funds America chairman, welcomed special guests at the Chairman’s Reception, where they met Kelly, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines; also honored was Enda Kenny, former prime minister of Ireland.
When it was time for the dinner and program, a bagpiper played and led guests to the upstairs ballroom, which was exquisitely decorated for the occasion.
To continue the festive mood and excitement, the Maguire Academy of Irish Dance performed to much clapping and fanfare.
Darina Padian, The Ireland Funds Texas director, welcomed guests. “I want to thank and recognize our amazing Emerald Ball Sponsor, CFM International, Platinum Sponsor, GE Aviation and Southwest Airlines for their incredible commitment. Thank you also to our generous table hosts and other incredible sponsors who make this all possible. This Ball would not take place without the drive and commitment of our Emerald Ball Co-Chairs, Maureen Kelly Cooper and Kathryn Cassidy, and our committee, who have worked so hard to make this evening such a success.”
Padian introduced Eugene M. McQuade, The Ireland Funds America chairman. McQuade said, “Thanks to you and your partnership with The Ireland Funds, that generosity translates every day into tangible change for those who need it most. Whether it is strengthening peace in Northern Ireland, preserving cultural treasures, offering access to education for the next generation, or strengthening communities through grassroots initiatives, The Ireland Funds is there. Your involvement makes a profound difference 365 days a year and for that, we salute you.”
He added, “Our Texas chapter has been faithful in its support and long term commitment to the work of The Ireland Funds. In particular, I want to thank our Texas-based donors and National Board Members Dolores McCall, Tom Codd and Kevin Curley for their time, their commitment and their care.”
To bless the evening and the dinner, Rev. Bill Shaw, director of 174 Trust from Northern Ireland, a project supported by The Ireland Funds, gave the invocation. Guests dined on a delicious dinner of charred corn and poblano soup, grilled filet mignon with roasted garlic, au gratin potatoes, zucchini and heirloom carrots. The dessert trio included Texas whiskey cake, fresh fruit tart and flourless chocolate cake.
David Cronin, The Ireland Funds America president and CEO, then introduced Enda Kenny, former prime minister of Ireland. Cronin expressed his gratitude to Kenny who he praised for his leadership stating, “The measure of his leadership was extraordinary at that time. It was truly a Celtic comeback. We also appreciate his long-standing support of The Ireland Funds.”
Kenny told stories about being the prime minister and helping Ireland during highs and lows, including an increase in business and commerce. He thanked The Ireland Funds for its leadership, support and mission, which is to harness the power of a global philanthropic network of friends of Ireland to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development across the island of Ireland and among Irish communities around the world.
Cronin, along with Padian and McQuade, presented Kenny with the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors an individual who has demonstrated outstanding civic and charitable efforts over a period of one’s life.
Next, auctioneer Morgon Hopson got the crowd excited about the live auction items, such as an Emerald Isle trip for two, a stay for 16 at the Dunkerron Manor Estate in Ireland, a Belize Adventure and a Santa Fe private home.
Tom Codd, The Ireland Funds America board member, introduced Tom Nealon, Southwest Airlines president, who then introduced Gary Kelly. Before Kelly came to the stage, Nealon talked about Southwest Airlines’ community service and showed a video highlighting Kelly’s philanthropic leadership.
Nealon and Kenny then presented Kelly with The Ireland Funds’ 2020 Philanthropic Leadership Award, which honors an individual who has demonstrated an exemplary commitment to making a positive impact on the community through giving of time, talent and resources. Kelly, who is of Irish descent, said, “I am honored to receive this prestigious award. I am so proud to be a part of The Ireland Funds.” His personal and Southwest Airlines families were on hand to congratulate and celebrate with him.
To close the program, internationally known Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sang a few songs, closing with “God Bless America.” Guests enjoyed visiting afterwards, drinking Irish coffee and dancing to the Manhattan Dance Band’s lively popular music.
Special thanks to the following sponsors:
Texas Emerald Ball Sponsor: CFM International
Platinum Sponsor: GE Aviation
Gold Plus Sponsor: PwC
Gold Sponsor: Southwest Airlines, Shelly and Tom Codd, Dolores McCall/McCall Oil and Gas
Silver Sponsor: Airlines for America, Altair Global, Boeing, Kevin Curley/Curley Financial Group, Cushman & Wakefield, GSD&M, H & K International
Photos: Can Turkyilmaz