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Dance, News, People

McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance Makes A Move

Grand opening!

Grand opening!

Marcie McComb of Broomall had her three young daughters in tow at the grand opening last Saturday of the brand new home of the McDade Cara School of Irish Dance in Edgmont. Her middle daughter, Riley, five, was signing up. “She and her sister Morgan (7) went to the dance camps in April and Riley wanted to do it. And she’s good too. Riley really gets it.”

In fact, Riley seemed ready to go right then, swinging her hips and arms as the first reel played in one of several vast studios that are replacing the school’s two previous locations. A few lessons and those arms will be as still as tree trunks. Continue Reading

News, People

Golfing for Charity

Flyers alum Bernie Parent does a meet-and-greet.

Flyers alum Bernie Parent does a meet-and-greet.

Boston’s Ken Casey, front man for the Celtic rock band Dropkick Murphys, admitted the other night that he was leaning towards becoming a Philadelphia Flyers’ fan. In his neck of the woods–Bruins territory—that’s not just heresy but a potential cause for justifiable homicide.

But even the most devoted Bruins fan would have to bend a little just this once. The Flyers organization came out in force to support Casey’s Claddagh Foundation on Wednesday at the annual celebrity golf outing at Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill, NJ. About a dozen current and former players joined foursomes—which went for $2,000—to play the William Flynn-designed 178-acre course. That included stogie-chewing, wisecracking Flyers alum Bernie Parent (”Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent”) and popular right winger and All-Star Jacub Voracek, a Czech native, who allowed himself to be auctioned off (along with girlfriend Nicole Warneke) for a date night with a lucky bidder. Continue Reading

Music, News, People

Hall of Famers Twice: Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley

Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley

Kathy DeAngelo and Dennis Gormley

Emma Gormley was kicking to the beat of the bodhran in utero, laying as an infant at the foot of her mother’s harp, and up on stage at the age of three singing the Irish folk song, “Johnny Todd,” to a huge audience for which her musician parents, Dennis Gormley and Kathy DeAngelo, were providing “the background music.”

DeAngelo laughs as she recalls the moment. “They weren’t paying any attention to us as they drank their glasses of wine, then suddenly, when they heard this big voice coming out of this little girl, they started listening. Dennis said to me, ‘She’s going to be just like you!”

When Emma took up the violin at school, her parents weren’t surprised. Between them, they play a full orchestra’s worth of instruments. Kathy is a self-taught guitarist, fiddler, and harper who also plays mandolin and banjo; Dennis plays anything with strings, flute and whistle. The entire family sings. They occasionally perform together. (See a photo of the whole family below.)

Kathy and Dennis, who met when they were college students in New Jersey in 1973, have been the Irish trad duo (and sometimes trio, with other performers), McDermott’s Handy since 1978. They have two CDs, the latest of which is “Bound for Amerikay: The Irish Emigrant Experience: Coming to America as Told Through Music, Song & Story.” They recorded and mixed it in their own basement studio.

Their lives have been steeped in music. But in 1997, when Emma was 10, her parents thought she needed a group of kids her own age to play with. Then that year, a friend who was director of the Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill asked DeAngelo if some of her and Dennis’s students could play Irish music during multicultural month celebrations. They rounded up a few kids, asked friend and fellow music teacher Chris Brennan-Hagy of Philadelphia to bring some of hers, and booked Tom Slattery, an Irish storyteller, for the event. “This is how things always happen,” says DeAngelo. “You think, okay, this will be easy!” Continue Reading

News, People, Sports

Up Tyrone!

Tyrone fans in Philly.

Tyrone fans in Philly.

More than a dozen Tyrone GAA fans, many of them Tyrone natives, dashed up the front steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, Rocky-style, last Sunday to pose for a photo to share with Tyrone fans across the world.

Their team is facing Kerry, the reigning champs, this Sunday in Croke Park in Dublin in semi-final action. The last time Tyrone made it to the All-Ireland was in 2008. This weekend, the coach who took them to victory in 2008, 2005, and, for the first time ever, in 2003, Mickey Harte, is hoping for number 4.

The reason for the photo—which was to join all the other photos from around the world—was to show support for the team which was, until this week, facing the loss of a key player. Tiernan McCann was facing an eight-week ban for allegedly overreacting to an opposing player from Kerry touching his head during a quarter final game at Croke Park. Officials said McCann “dived” when his hair was ruffled, leading sports writers to dub the incident “rufflegate.” That ban was lifted this week by the Central Hearings Committee. Continue Reading

News, People

RIP Jim McLaughlin, 1948-2015

Jim McLaughlin

Jim McLaughlin

When Bob McLaughlin was signing the visitor book at St. Ignatius Nursing Home in Havertown one day not long ago, he said he couldn’t help paging through the list of the people who had come to visit his brother, Jim, who was dying of a malignant brain tumor.

“There were hundreds and hundreds of names,” he told the more than 100 people who gathered in the St. Joseph University Chapel on Tuesday morning to say goodbye to Jim McLaughlin, who died on July 24, just 8 months after his diagnosis.

“There were so many, the man sitting behind the desk said to me, ‘Is he an important guy?’ “ Bob McLaughlin paused. “I said, ‘Yes he is.’”

Over the next 20 minutes, Bob McLaughlin made it clear that he wasn’t referring to anything on his brother’s resume, though it was impressive. Despite his diminutive size, Jim McLaughlin was a wide receiver for Drexel Hill’s Msgr. Bonner High School team. He remained a Bonner booster all his life, becoming part of the Bonner “Mafia” that helped another Bonner grad, Bill McLaughlin (no relation), start the Irish American Business Chamber and Network in 1999. “He really helped me enormously in those early days,” recalled Bill McLaughlin. “He joined the board early on and started recruiting all the Bonner guys he knew to join. That’s how we started.”

He also stayed true to his college. Jim McLaughlin graduated in 1970 from St. Joseph’s University, where he was class president his first two years. A clue to his character: He abandoned the try at a third term after his mother died, leaving four of her seven children still at home, including the youngest, Mary, who was a toddler. When his family called, he dropped everything to be there for them, often, as many learned at his funeral, in exceptional ways.

He remained an avid Hawk supporter all his life— his AOL email address was Jimsju70 —at one point becoming co-chair (or, as Father Feeney described him, “communicator-in-chief”) of the Class of ’70 group. In April this year, he received the Hogan Award, which is given annually to recognize outstanding loyalty and service to the university.

He attended St. Joe’s on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, and after graduation became a second lieutenant in the Air Force stationed in Washington State, where he married and started a family. After his discharge, he got his masters of social work and worked in that field for a decade before translating those skills into a new career in healthcare recruitment and marketing.

He was an entrepreneur, opening his own consulting firm, Trinity Health Partners which provided recruiting and business development services to companies. He served as president of the Irish American Business Chamber and Network which fosters business relationships between Ireland and the US, and between Irish-Americans in Philadelphia. In fact, he had just returned home from a trip to Ireland with a group of hospital execs interested in expanding their virtual pediatric medical services to Irish medical centers when he was diagnosed.

But what his brother Bob was alluding to was not the typical accomplishments of a smart and successful businessman. People did not remember Jim for his “resume virtues,” said his college friend Kyran Connor, quoting an essay by New York Times columnist David Brooks on what it means to live a meaningful life. What made Jim McLaughlin an important man were his “eulogy virtues,” said Connor, again quoting Brooks, the ones “talked about at your funeral.” Those are the values and characteristics that allow some people to “radiate an inner light,” Brooks has written.

To those who knew him, Jim McLaughlin radiated a bonfire, often signaled by the twinkling light in his eye. He had such a zest for life and people, Father Joseph Feeney, SJ, the St. Joe’s professor who said the funeral Mass, started off the service addressing his old friend. “Jim,” he said, “you can’t not be alive. You’re too merry, too vital, too loveable to stop living. . . .He was the most open, loveable and kind people I have ever met, “ he told the mourners.

Many friends, like Connor, recalled a man who “could make you laugh so hard your sides would hurt.” Bill McLaughlin, who was a good foot or more taller than his friend, recalled Jim’s standard answer when people inevitably asked them if they were related. “ He used to say we were both from the same DNA pool but he was from the shallow end. He used to joke that he and I should have given a networking workshop to the chamber—and call ourselves the McLaughlin twins.”

They also remembered a man with myriad interests, one being Zydeco or Cajun folk dancing. “Jim was a genius at finding a Zydeco dance in Philadelphia and of the 7,000 Zydeco dancers in Philadelphia, I think there were only three who didn’t get to St. Ignatius to see him,” joked his brother Bob. “They loved my brother.”

They were far from alone. Jim McLaughlin collected people like some people collect matchbooks. He nurtured those relationships with unexpected phone calls, emails, and hugs. It was like him to “buy you drinks or dinner,” said Father Feeney. In business, it’s called networking, but for Jim McLaughlin, it was more like a genetic trait.

When his brother Bob, a flute player, became friends with virtuoso Irish flute player Kevin Crawford of the top traditional band, Lunasa, Crawford became Jim McLaughlin’s friend too. Crawford and Lunasa bandmate, noted piper Cillian Vallely, played at the service on Tuesday, opening with the poignant tune, “The Dear Irish Boy.” Afterwards, they remembered their friend whom they, like Bob, called “The Mayor.”

“Jim was an extremely special kind of guy. He would just call you out of the blue and say hello, how are you, when are you coming down, is there anything I can do for you,” recalled Crawford.

In fact, Crawford said, Jim McLaughlin would contact the venues where they were appearing to make sure the band was taken care of. “He knew everyone and had established such good will that they all owed him big time,” added Vallely. “If he asked you for something, you would have done it.”

Bethanne Killian got to know Jim McLaughlin better when she became more involved in the city’s Irish community. She’s chair of Irish Network-Philadelphia, a networking group. But she met him originally in 1995 when an Irish friend, Rose Shields, told her she wanted to introduce her to “this man she met on an airplane, coming into Philadelphia.” It was Jim. Shields and her husband Will chatted with him all the way from Shannon to Philly, then Jim offered them a ride home. “Of course, they became fast friends,” said Killian, laughing.

Along with collecting people, he connected them. Dublin-born Siobhan Lyons, executive director of the Irish Immigration Center of Greater Philadelphia, met Jim McLaughlin at a meeting of the Irish Chamber when she was looking for a job that would qualify her for a visa to allow her to stay in the US. She’d fallen in love with the city.

“Jim started introducing me to people. He told me to come to Judge Jimmy Lynn’s annual breakfast at the Plough and the Stars on St. Patrick’s Day where he introduced me to John O’Malley [on the Immigration Center’s Board of Directors]. He told John I was looking for a job and I saw John start to glaze over. Then I told him my background, that I had worked for the Irish government, and he said, ‘I think you’re the person we’ve been looking for.’ So it was thanks to Jim that I got my job and got to stay in the US.”

Frank Reynolds, CEO of PixarBio Corporation, had just learned how to walk again after a surgical error left him paralyzed for seven years when he met Jim McLaughlin. “I joined the Irish Chamber in 1999 after I was back to walking because I needed to network and make friends. I met Jim and we hit it off. We were both St. Joe’s grads and St. Joe’s had really helped saved my life. The research they gave me helped me literally get back on my feet. Jim introduced me to a lot of people, especially people in the neuroscience industry in Dublin, and I developed some important relationships that helped me develop a cure for paralysis.”

Reynolds’ invention, the NeuroScaffold, is an experimental polymer implant that provides support to injured spinal tissue and encourages healing. It has shown promise in clinical trials.

Though many recalled Jim McLaughlin’s “unbounded friendliness”—as Father Feeney put it—the truth is that the greatest of his “eulogy virtues” echoed the Jesuit principle that guides his beloved St. Joe’s: “In all things to love and to serve.”

After his mother died, his father also became ill, dying just a few years later, leaving little Mary an orphan at 10. But before his father passed away, Jim flew him and Mary out to Seattle then drove them in a VW bus for 1,000 miles to take them to Disneyland “which we now know to be the plot of the movie, ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’” said Mary, laughing. “We saw everything, the Pacific Coast Highway, Bug Sur, Napa. . . “

Then, when her father finally died, it was McLaughlin and his wife, Celeste, who took her into their home and raised her with their own two children, Suzanne and Kieran.

“Jim and Celeste were just 25, just married, and they raised me, an independent little girl who listened to her brother’s Allman Brothers albums, went bowling until midnight, and did whatever I wanted it,” Mary McLaughlin told the mourners about the man she called “my brother, my father, my friend.”

Her brother “changed the course of my life,” she said, by filling out her application for the University of Washington and submitting it, though she admitted she had other plans.

She echoed her brother, Bob, who credited “everything good about my life” to an afternoon he spent with Jim when he was living in Washington. That day, his nature-loving brother—Jim loved the outdoors was an avid member of the Appalachian Mountain Club– blew off his Air Force duties to take him to Mt. Rainier, the iconic snow-capped volcano in the Cascade range that dominates the horizon in Seattle and Tacoma.

“There we were, looking up at that 14,000 foot peak and over the Cascades and I thought, ‘I’m going to live here someday,” recalled Bob McLaughlin. “And in 1978 I quit my crazy sales job in Philly and moved to Tacoma to be near the mountains—and truthfully to be near my brother.”

Bob McLaughlin found a job in the textbook industry, which he remains in today, got married and started a family. “All of this came to me because of the gift my brother gave me in that trip to Mt. Rainier. That afternoon and the time and attention he gave me was life-changing. Everything good about my life was my brother’s gift.”

Jim McLaughlin leaves behind a daughter, Suzanne, and son, Keiran (Michelle) and a grandson, KJ. He is also survived by his siblings, Kathy, Tom (Fran), Bob (Nancy), Jerry, and Mary, and his fomer wife, Celeste. He was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon.

In lieu of flowers donations in his memory may be made to St Ignatius Nursing and Rehab, 4401 Haverford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104 or to Visiting Nurses Association of Philadelphia, 3300 Henry Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19129.

The Jim everyone will rememberWith Bill McLaughlin at the paradeAt a Chamber eventMarching in the St. Patrick's Day ParadeJoking with friend, Bill McLAughlin
Food & Drink, People

A Garden Tea Party Fundraiser and a Community Coming Together

Tiernagh & Mia Moore and Meagan & Jenna Diver with Their Cards for Caolan & Conall

Tiernagh & Mia Moore and Meagan & Jenna Diver with their cards for Caolan & Conall

“It’s overwhelming how people just come together in situations like this. Situations that you don’t even think about before they happen.”

These are the words of Fidelma McGroary, and she knows what she’s talking about. Fidelma is one of five Delaware County women who organized last Sunday’s Garden Tea Party to raise money for two strong little boys who are fighting cancer.

Caolan Melaugh, the cousin of Fidelma’s sister-in-law in County Donegal, was diagnosed at four weeks with Neuroblastoma. Now four months old, Caolan is undergoing an 18 month protocol in Ireland to treat his cancer, but the best chance for a successful cure would mean treatment in either the U.S. or Europe. An expensive undertaking, the Caolan Melaugh Fund has been established online, and half of the money raised at Sunday’s Tea Party will be donated to Caolan.

Conall Harvey is much closer to home. The five year old, whose family is part of St. Denis Parish in Havertown and whose great-grandmother was the late Rosabelle Gifford, was diagnosed in March of this year with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  The Leukemia was discovered when Conall was admitted to the ER with what his parents thought was dehydration from a stomach virus.  But instead of a stomach virus, Conall’s body had gone into septic shock from a bacterial infection that his immune system was too weak to fight off. Doctors amputated both Conall’s legs at the knee and part of his hand to save his life; the other half of the money raised Sunday will go directly to Conall’s family as he undergoes chemotherapy and rehabilitation.

“These are two special little boys,” Fidelma said. “And we decided we weren’t going to let another day go by without doing something to help them. We’ve been talking about giving back and paying it forward for years. I wanted to do something for Caolan, and then we heard about Conall. That’s how it started.

“This could not have happened without Louise Moore, Sharon Doogan, Kathy McGuinness and Colette Gallagher-Mohan. And the people who donated raffle baskets and food and their time. Everybody lifted the phone and said ‘What can I bring?’ And then the word started to spread, that’s the people of the Irish Community.”

Another group that was instrumental in making the Garden Tea Party so successful was their children. “They did all the decor. They did everything, we couldn’t have done it without them,” Fidelma said. “It was important that the kids were a part of this. I wanted them to grow up realizing how blessed they are and to learn to give back. So when they grow up and we’re old and gone, they’ll carry on.”

The special guest of the day was Mairead Comaskey, the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee. Beautiful and gracious, Mairead could usually be found with a trail of young girls in her wake. In addition to judging the best-dressed contests, she happily posed for pictures and shared her sash and crown with the crowd. In a few weeks, Mairead is off to Tralee for the International Rose Pageant, but on Sunday her heart was with Caolan and Conall.

At the time of the fundraiser, Conall Harvey was still recovering at CHOP, but his aunt, Rose Harvey Kurtz, was at the event. “Conall is just a beautiful bright light, a beautiful spirit,” she said. “He’s a fighter. His school dedicated a day to him, and the motto was ‘Conall Strong.’ We do down to visit him to brighten his day, and instead he brightens ours.

“The outpouring of love and faith is keeping us going. There’s something about Conall’s spirit that is bringing out the love and goodness in people. People’s faith is coming back. The positive thing is the strength of the family and friends who are so supportive, and the beautiful people who do beautiful things like this. It’s overwhelming how good people are.”

You can see all the photos from the Garden Tea Party below.

The fundraiser organizers: Kathy McGuinness, Louise Moore, Sharon Doogan, Fidelma McGroary & Colette Gallagher MohanTiernagh & Mia Moore and their card for ConallTiernagh & Mia Moore and Meagan & Jenna Diver with their get well cards for Conall & CaolanJenna & Meagan Diver and their card for CaolanBack Row: Laura McGroary, Olivia & Kayleigh Doogan, Sinead & Aisling Mohan, Mia Moore. Front Row: Tiernagh, Liam & Carly Moore, Leanne McGroaryPhiladelphia Rose Mairead Comaskey with a garden full of future RosesHelena Crossan Facciolo, Serena Crossan McCormack, Carmel Crossan Boyce & Collen Boyce Moran, all wearing hats designed by HelenaBarney & Carmel BoyceSarah MaloneySarah & Lisa MaloneySarah & Lisa MaloneyPat Bonner and Mary Beth Bonner RyanPat Bonner, winner of the best-dressed award, & Philadelphia Rose, Mairead ComaskeyJune McKenna & Mary McLaughiln w/ Philadelphia Rose, Mairead ComaskeyPhiladelphia Rose Mairead Comaskey with sisters Eilish & ShaniaLeah McBrearty trying on Mairead Comaskey's Philadelphia Rose crownAnna McCabe & Ava Facciolo, winners of the best-dressed awardPhiladelphia Rose Mairead Comaskey with best dressed girls Ava Facciolo & Anna McCabe
News, People, Photo Essays

Painting Wine Glasses: The Latest Fun-raiser

Instructor Collin Hennessey guides a fledgling painter.

Instructor Collin Hennessey guides a fledgling painter.

Turns out you don’t need artistic talent to enjoy a wine glass painting fundraiser. In fact, it helps if you don’t have any. The laughs are bigger.

The Philadelphia Irish Center held its first-ever painting party as part of this year’s fundraising campaign. The event was organized by Lisa Maloney who also included a kids-only craft party as part of the festivities. The kids didn’t paint wine glasses, but went home with canvas shoulder bags they decorated.

Entertainment was provided by the Cummins School of Irish Dance, which sent a dancer and instructor who taught the mother-daughter teams who attended the fundraiser how to do the Gay Gordon.

You can see all the fun in the photos below. Too bad you can’t hear the laughing.

Painting1Connell HennesseyGetting artyGetting Personal Helpkids craftsDosey-dohHigh KicksLisa and Sarah MaloneyLittle TwirlMother-daughter Dance
News, People

First Irish Center Fundraiser Down! More to Come

Bill Whitman was having a great time.

Bill Whitman was having a great time.

The palm-tree dotted patio at McGillicuddy’s in Upper Darby resembled a rainforest during monsoon season on Saturday night, but that didn’t keep party-goers—that’s the way they were acting—from the first of several fundraisers aimed at keeping Philadelphia’s Irish Center going strong.

Despite the torrent, there was music and dancing from 4 PM on and it was still rocking when I left around 8:45 PM, after giving out more than 30 raffle baskets to happy winners. Best part of the evening: Telling one of McGillucuddy’s bartenders that he won the basket of cheer donated by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (Coal-tus) of the Delaware Valley.

Among the other top prizes: four Phillies tickets, passes to a concert by Celtic Thunder’s Emmett O’Hanlon at Hard Rock Café Philadelphia in August; two huge baskets overflowing with food favorites from home donated by the Irish Coffee shop; and a gift certificate to the new McKenna’s Kitchen and Market in Havertown.

Music was provided by No Irish Need Apply, Vince Gallagher, and a ceili band made up of Kevin McGillian, his son, Jimmy, and nephew, Michael Boyce.

The next fundraiser is July 11 at the Irish Center—an afternoon with the artists from dish & dabble in Havertown where you’ll paint two wine glasses, enjoy munchies, and drinks from the bar. Bring some friends and have a blast. Reerve your spots by contacting Lisa Maloney at lisamaloney29@yahoo.com

Check out the photos below for a look at the fun.

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