By Mark Schmeltzer
If there’s one thing you can count on during March in Chicago, it’s probably not the weather. One week, we’re bundling up against the elements; and the next, we’re shedding layers down to shirtsleeves.
About the only thing that is certain about March in Chicago is that no matter the weather, we will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day all month long and with a zeal that very few cities can equal. With at least eight parades stepping off in every corner of the metro area this month, you’ll have ample opportunities to view your part of Chicagoland through emerald-colored glasses.
Parades are only one way we celebrate the season, of course. The Chicago area abounds with so many St. Patrick’s events to choose from, like holiday-themed 5K and 8K races, festivals, and restaurant specials. Closer to home, family and friends will gather to enjoy delicious holiday spreads featuring foods like Irish soda bread and corned beef sandwiches. Crowds will even line the Chicago river’s banks to watch the old waterway transformed into a shimmering Kelly green seam that joins our city’s parts together.
But one Chicago charity offers a great way for everyone in the Chicago area to celebrate while doing something great for kids in need.
Mercy Home’s March for Kids
Mercy Home for Boys & Girls is again asking Chicagoans to make this a March for Kids by helping them provide safety, healing and opportunity for abused and neglected children. The effort features a number of fundraising and awareness raising activities that benefit young people who live at Mercy Home—a solution for kids in crisis since 1887.
For example, volunteers decked out in Mercy Home’s signature green vests will roam the routes of area St. Patrick’s Day parades, collecting donations that give at-risk children a safe place to live, therapy to heal from the trauma of abuse and neglect, and tools like education and job skills to help them build lifetimes of independence and success. Volunteers will be out in force at the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sat., March 16, and the South Side Irish Parade on Sun., March 17. Downtown commuters will also have the opportunity to contribute on Friday morning, March 15, when teams of corporate volunteers blanket the bridges over the Chicago River.
In addition to feet on the street, individual and group volunteers will hold donation drives at area businesses, churches and schools. The Knights of Columbus, for example, will collect donations in support of Mercy Home at Chicago Catholic parishes. The Knights of Columbus have supported Mercy Home’s March for Kids for nine years.
“This program is an excellent way to get our members engaged in their home parishes,” said Jeff Griggs, Knights of Columbus District deputy #9. “It is truly a pleasure to raise money for this campaign across the archdiocese while raising the profile of the good works of Mercy Home.”
Participate from home
But you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your living room to get involved. Anyone can make a difference with just a few clicks on their computer or mobile device. Throughout the month, Mercy Home’s website will accept contributions that will be matched dollar for dollar by a generous donor. Mercy Home’s effort will be highlighted on March 15 during a special “Giving Day” at mercyhome.org.
Celebrity spokesman Bill Rancic is also helping get the word out through media appearances, while raising funds through his RPM Steak and RPM Italian restaurants in Chicago. A portion of proceeds from special menu items during the month will benefit Mercy Home’s March for Kids. Similarly, a number of Chicago restaurants will raise donations, including Monteverde, Theater on the Lake, Lula Café, Piccolo Sogno, and Nonnina.
Mercy Home’s Associates Board, which is made up of young professionals, will officially kick off Mercy Home’s March for Kids with a party and fundraiser at Butch McGuire’s, 20 W. Division Street, Chicago on Sat., March 3, 3:00–6:00 p.m.
March for Kids makes a difference
Mercy Home’s March for Kids has been held every year in Chicago, under different names, since 1996. For 10 years, it was known as Shamrocks for Kids before being renamed and expanded in 2014. Today, Mercy Home’s March for Kids involves significant promotion from media and corporate partners, involvement in several area parades and events, fundraisers in restaurants and other business, and hundreds of volunteers who donate their time and energy to help kids at Mercy Home.
Donations like those raised through March for Kids supply Mercy Home with 100 percent of the funds it needs to care for children 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Mercy Home President Rev. L. Scott Donahue thanked supporters for the impact they have on young people who for more than 132 years have turned to Mercy Home in search of hope and healing.
“I am deeply grateful to so many kind, compassionate people who help make this mission possible through their involvement in Mercy Home’s March for Kids year after year,” Fr. Donahue said. “Mercy Home relies entirely on the generosity of men and women like these, and donors across the country, to keep our doors open to children in need. And it’s because of their generosity that the children entrusted to our care are able to overcome tremendous adversity in their young lives, break cycles of abuse and neglect, and grow into successful adults.”
Mercy Home is calling on all interested volunteers to help make this effort a success. Any individual, business, or group can help provide a safe and supportive home for children in need just by signing up to be a Mercy Home March for Kids volunteer. It’s a fun and unique way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, complete a Lenten, school, or family service project, or organize an office team-building initiative. Go to Mercy Home for Boys & Girls’ website (mercyhome.org) to learn everything they need to know to make this month a March for Kids.
Mark Schmeltzer is a Chicago-based writer
who works in non-profit communications.