There are ways in which members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians have a lot in common with Santa Claus. Yes, there are more than a few white beards and little round bellies that shake when they laugh, like bowls full of jelly—but that’s not what we mean.
What we’re talking about is the amazing generosity of spirit that typifies the AOH, and not just during this time of year, but all year-round.
That generosity was in evidence Saturday night at the Pennsylvania National Guard in Northeast Philadelphia as the AOH presented the first-ever Project St. Nicholas. The proceeds of the event benefited several local charities, including the Hibernian Hunger Project, Toys for Tots, Cure Autism Now, Project Children and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
“We raised thousands of dollars,” said master of ceremonies Pat “Paddy” O’Brien, chairman of public relations for the Pennsylvania AOH. “We’ll do it again next year. It’ll be even bigger and better.”
Local Irish who visited the armory throughout the day listened to music by great local bands, including the Bogside Rogues, Ballina, the Birmingham Six, Tullamore Trio and The Shantys. (More than a few weren’t content just to listen—they got up and danced.) There was plenty of great food, including a bit of soda bread. For the kids, Santa Claus showed up about midday. The Celtic Flame Dancers also made an appearance.
As the afternoon gave way to the evening’s festivities, the Hibernians took the opportunity to recognize one of their own. Judge Patrick Dugan presented a plaque from the state AOH to the family of fallen Philadelphia Police Officer Chuck Cassidy. Irish Thunder Pipes and Drums also played in Cassidy’s honor.
For O’Brien the healthy turnout was heartening. “It was good to see the AOH involved in a community event that went outside of the AOH. People came today just because they were Irish. And they came from everywhere. There’s a World War II vet who came all the way down from Scranton.”
Finally, a few other visitors were unexpected … but nonetheless quite welcome indeed.
It seems that four women from Ireland—dancers all—had just gotten off the plane at Philly International. They had an appointment in Southampton, Bucks County, so that’s where they asked the cabbie to take them. They didn’t get that far. The cabbie misunderstood and dropped them off at the National Guard Armory on Southampton Road.
“They were 15 miles of course,” O’Brien laughed. So we asked them to come in and get something to eat and drink, and we arranged for a ride for them back to Center City. I said to them, ‘If there’s any place on the planet where you want to get lost, this is the spot.”
Lost or not, we all felt just the same way.