Pretty early on during the Sunday, August 24, musical benefit to raise money for Irish radio, some people forgot they were at a charity event. “Isn’t this a great party?” one happy stranger asked me as I wove my way through the dancers in the Irish Center’s Fireside Room.
In fact, it was a great party and it raised about $3,000 to support The Vince Gallagher Irish Hour and Marianne MacDonald’s “Come West Along the Road” shows that air every Sunday,starting at 11 AM on WTMR 800AM. Along with pledges and sales of raffle tickets, it’s enough for MacDonald to say, “It saved my show—and Vince’s.”
Both radio hosts bear the entire financial burden of airing the shows. WTMR does not sell advertising for them, as other stations do, so they need to bring in the estimated $35,000 a year it takes to pay for the airtime. Hosts have always contributed their own funds, but this year, with the economic downturn, it’s been harder to find advertisers and sometimes harder to get advertisers to pay, One longtime large advertiser not only stopped placing ads, but also failed to pay for ads that already ran.
But Marianne MacDonald, who organized Sunday’s benefit, was heartened by the more than $26,000 in pledges the station received during its 8-week on-air drive, and the help from all quarters of the Irish community. “It was amazing to see such a cross-section of people,” she said. “Especially the older people who have been listening to the shows for years. They’ve been so nice.”
Most of the Irish societies, AOH divisions, and other Irish organizations not only made contributions, but some helped out as pledge-takers over the summer, including the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Committee, members of the Donegal, Cavan, and Mayo Associations,the Irish of Havertown, AOH divisions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the NJ, Irish Memorial Committee, DelawareValley Irish Hall of Fame, Mayfair Community Development Corporation, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann Delaware Valley Branch.
Door and raffle prizes were donated by Lisa Carbrey of Celtic Scenes, an online photo and gift shop; the Waterford Wedgewood Company Store in Limerick; artist Patrick Gallagher; Liam O’Riordan of Blarney, County Cork; the Eileen Motel in Wildwood Crest; the New Deck Tavern; Emmett’s Place in Philadelphia; Kelly’s Touch of Ireland in Pitman, NJ; Kathy McGee Burns; the Philadelphia Mayo Association; the DelawareValley Irish Hall of Fame; and www.irishphiladelphia.com.
Local musicians also donated their time and talents, including Kevin and Jimmy McGillian, Mary Malone, Den Vykopel, Patsy Ward, John Boyce, Tim Hill, the Gittlemans, The King Brothers, Round Tower, The McHughs, Fintan Malone, Terry Kane, and others. They’re who kept the dancers busy most of the night to help work off the calories from the buffet dinner provided by caterer Mickey Kavanaugh.
The fundraising will continue for several months with a raffle—grand prize is atrip for two for a week to Ireland, free lodgings at Faha House, a home owned by local musician Fintan Malone, in County Clare; standard car rental for a week, and admission passes to various sites. The tickets cost $10, or three for $20, and are available from Robert Gessler. You can call him at 215-806-7298, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at 2212 E. Norris Street, Philadelphia, PA 19125.