Those attending the American-Ireland Fund Pittsburgh Gala at Heinz Field on Friday night might have thought they stepped right onto the streets of Dublin, as the East Club was transformed into a street fair and Irish Pub. A few Irish brogues could even be heard as guests mingled and took in the Irish fare.
The entertainment was plentiful, as Pittsburgh-based Irish band Red Hand Paddy performed before dinner, and Irish dancers wowed the green-clad guests as they enjoyed the warm Irish ambiance.
In true American-Ireland fashion, Bruce Foley of Guaranteed Irish sang the Irish National Anthem, “The Soldier’s Song,” while Red Hand Paddy fiddler Pat Manion performed the American National Anthem.
While the entertainment was stellar and kept everyone’s Irish eyes smiling, the real meaning of the night was to continue the American Ireland Fund’s mission of promoting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development throughout Ireland.
Steelers chairman Dan Rooney Sr., along with Pittsburgh businessman Anthony J.F. O’Reilly, created The Ireland Fund, which later merged with the American Irish Foundation (AIF) to create the American Ireland Fund. Rooney, who recently left his post as United States Ambassador to Ireland, has been a driving force in the success the AIF has seen over the years.
“The Ireland Fund started by Tony O’Reilly and I, was a struggle to get going,” said Rooney. “After about two or three years it has really taken off and has been growing rapidly ever since. The original idea was to work for peace, culture and charity. Peace became the biggest issue we addressed, and we did a lot with education too.
“It has been a great benefit to Ireland and done much to bring peace to the island, both on the North and the South.”
David J. Malone, chairman, president and CEO of Gateway Financial, was honored at the dinner as the 2013 American Ireland Fund Chairman’s Award recipient for his distinguished leadership in the community.
Among the organizations Malone is involved with are the United Way of Allegheny County, The Pittsburgh Promise, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, YouthPlaces and the American Ireland Fund Pittsburgh Gala.
“I consider Mr. Rooney one of the truly generous, magnanimous leaders for this region, and for him to consider recognizing me in this way is humbling and a true honor,” said Malone. “I have always felt I had a lot of people help me along the way, and I have had good fortune, so I feel that everyone deserves that. Whatever I can do to help, I want to do.”
About the American-Ireland Fund
In 1976, Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team along with fellow Pittsburgh businessman Anthony J.F. O’Reilly, created what was then The Ireland Fund. With a trinity of goals – peace, culture and charity – The Ireland Fund appealed for support for Ireland and its people from all Americans, but especially those of Irish descent. During the following decade, The Ireland Fund formed a thriving fundraising network of chapters in cities across the U.S. including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Palm Beach, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego and Washington D.C.
On St. Patrick’s Day 1987, The Ireland Fund and the American Irish Foundation, founded by Irish President Eamonn De Valera and U.S. President John F. Kennedy, merged at a White House ceremony to form The American Ireland Fund.
The Worldwide Ireland Funds currently operate in 12 countries and have raised over $430 million for more than 1,200 outstanding organizations. In response to the severe downturn in the Irish economy, The Worldwide Ireland Funds launched the Promising Ireland Campaign in 2009 to raise $100 million by the end of 2013 in support of charities that are experiencing an increased demand for their services at a time of a major reduction in resources. The initial campaign goal of $100 million was reached 19 months early and the goal was revised to $140 million, requiring the Funds to raise $1 million a month until December 2013. The campaign’s title, Promising Ireland, reflects the Funds’ pledge to these groups as well as their belief in Ireland’s future. More than 350 outstanding projects and organizations have received support from the Promising Ireland Campaign.
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