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Post-St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser a more Irish celebration

March 26, 2011

by Aoife Herbert

Albany Ancient Order of Hibernians Center, 375 Ontario Street Albany, NY (Aoife Herbert)

Traditional Irish music flowed pleasantly from the stage at the Irish American Center Friday night in celebration of the 13th annual post-St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser on behalf of the Joseph M. Walsh Foundation. Proceeds from the event benefitProject ChildrenThe Irish American Heritage Museum and the Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch.

The evening’s musical backdrop included a loyal group of friends who excelled in a rapt delivery of real Irish tunes, as the genuine spirit of the Irish echoed around the hall. A far cry from the ignorant and pretentious college antics clouding the area’s St.Patrick’s Day celebrations, the Albany Hibernian center was host to traditional Irish values at their very core. Families and friends shared drinks, children for a short period step-danced on the wooden floors to the jigs and reels of a lively tin-whistle and a cacophony of Irish-American voices sang songs of triumph, hope, joy and despair. Traditional Irish singers, Three Irish Voices, comprised of Mike Roche, Chris Gill and Mike Donovan took the stage midway through the night and their rendition of the song Kilkelly, Ireland ignited the audience’s appreciation of an emotionally charged and perfectly sung ballad with a rapture of applause.

Betty Walsh is the chief founder of the foundation in 1998 which was set up in her husband’s honor following his sudden death.

“I decided the day after Joseph died that I would set up the foundation. He was extremely proud of his Irish roots, so I wanted to incorporate that. The aim of the foundation is to celebrate Irish heritage, music and culture while helping those less fortunate in life, ” she said.

(Aoife Herbert)

Money raised by the fundraiser will be directed to the Double H Ranch to help with the non-profit with its youth programs, said Max Yurenda, chief executive officer of the Double H. The organization provides a free summer residential camp and adaptive winter sports program to children and their families who are dealing with serious life threatening illnesses.

“What you see here tonight is an example of real people giving back to the community and people in need of their help. What we try to do at our ranch at Lake Luzerne in New York is help kids who are dealing with serious illnesses to feel normal by having fun just being a kid,” Yurenda said.

Also in attendance was Peter O’Connell, a trustee of the Irish

Children join in the fun, Post Saint Patrick’s day charity benefit. (Aoife Herbert)

American Heritage Museum, which will be opening a new center this May on 310 Broadway, in downtown Albany. Encapsulating the memory of Joseph M Wash, Betty Walsh felt it was important to honor the Irish heritage in her family and thus the foundation also supports the Irish American Heritage Museum. Fronted by O’Connell, its mission, he said, is to “preserve and tell the story of the contributions of the Irish people and their culture in the USA and to encourage people to examine the importance of their own heritage as part of the American fabric.”

Singer Frank Jaklitsch, of Austrian descent, grew up in Queens, spoke of his learned love of Irish music and its place in the Pine Hills and greater Albany area.

Molly the camel was auctioned off at $150 at the charity event (Aoife Herbert)

“I’m Austrian but I know hundreds of Irish songs. Growing up in Queens in the 70’s and 80’s, I was surrounded in a melting pot of Germans, Italians and Irish. The Germans knew the best places to eat, similarly the Italians, but the Irish knew music, fun, and how to have a good time and that’s what tonight is all about.”

“I played music at Joe’s Irish wake when he died 14 years ago, and although it was a sad occasion, it created such a close bond between everyone who knew him, so tonight is very special,” he added.

The night ended when a characterized Irish toy camel was auctioned off for an impressive $150, a raffle supported  by local businesses and a final rendition of Will you go lassie go by Jaklitsch and friends.

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