Historic Mercy Home
celebrates St. Patrick in style, raises support for kids
Like Chicago itself, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls’ Irish roots run deep. From the Home’s founding fathers to the succession of Catholic priests who have led the venerable child-care mission over the course of its 135-year history, each one has been of Irish or Irish-American descent, including its current president, Fr. Scott Donahue. Mercy Home’s origins even owe to a native of the Emerald Isle, and Chicago’s first Archbishop, Patrick Feehan, who gathered a group of priests in 1886 to find a solution to the growing crisis of homeless children in the city. The next year, Mercy Home set up shop above a Catholic Library on LaSalle Street before moving to its permanent home on Chicago’s Near West Side a few years later.
Now, every March, the fabric of this Irish tradition unfolds with great pageantry, as Mercy Home and greater Chicago celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for weeks. Among the city-wide festivities a familiar presence has made itself known for well over two decades: Mercy Home for Boys & Girls’ March for Kids.
Many names, one purpose
Held under various names since 1996, Mercy Home’s March for Kids has offered Chicagoans opportunities to celebrate all things Irish, while making a difference in the lives of young people in need. The multi-faceted, month-long program has generated support for Mercy Home every year through online and on-the-street donations, raffles, publicity and an annual family-friendly celebration following the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown.
For years, starting in the mid-1990’s, Mercy Home’s party following every Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade was part of what had been dubbed first as “A Touch O’ Green,” and later as “Shamrocks for Kids.”
In 2014, Mercy Home re-branded the program as March for Kids and focused its efforts on generating wider public awareness about youth in crisis, while raising funds for Mercy Home’s work. The post-parade party was shelved temporarily until plans were finalized for its triumphant return following the 2020 Chicago St. Partick’s Day Parade. But in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, most celebrations planned in Chicago would soon announce cancellations due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event was kept on ice again in 2021, but with the return of Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year, Mercy Home once again invites individuals and families with children alike to come together on March 12 for its March for Kids Post-Parade Party at Venue SIX10. The new location is a big plus. Venue SIX10 is a few short blocks from the start of the parade route and overlooks Grant Park.
While under a new name and in a new location, Mercy Home’s March for Kids Post-Parade Party will offer the amenities that made it such a hit for so many years, including live Irish music, step dancers, kid and adult beverages, Irish-themed food buffet plus a build-your-own mac-n-cheese bar, and children’s activities like featuring carnival and arcade games, great prizes, balloon artists and more.
General admission for adults is $75, and $20 for ages 6-20. Children ages 5 and under are free. Tickets will be available online until midnight on March 11, then available at the door (adult tickets will increase to $85).
Best of all, proceeds help Mercy Home for Boys & Girls provide a home, healing, education and opportunity for kids in crisis.
Beyond the party
In addition to the Post-Parade Party, other elements of Mercy Homes’ March for Kids program will raise support for its young people and raise awareness about the organization’s work throughout the entire month. With the return of the city’s major parades, the Mercy Home float and marchers will proceed down Columbus Drive in downtown Chicago on March 12. The next day, Mercy Home will march along Western Avenue in the South Side Beverly neighborhood near Mercy Home’s girls’ campus.
Once again, teams of volunteers will collect donations to Mercy Home and pass out Mercy Home shamrocks at parades, churches, schools and workplaces.
Earlier in the month, as they have done in pre-pandemic years, Mercy Home’s Associates Board, made up of young professionals, officially kicks off Mercy Home’s March for Kids with a party and fundraiser at the Butch McGuire’s.
But even if you aren’t planning to sample any of Chicago’s legendary St. Patick’s Day festivities, you can still give abused, neglected, and at-risk youth a safe home, therapy, education, job skills, life skills and more. Help kids build brighter futures by donating directly to Mercy home on their website: mercyhome.org/marchforkids. Gifts made during the entire month will be matched by a generous donor.
Throughout its many incarnations, Mercy Home’s March for Kids’ core mission remains the same: to raise funds and awareness that help Mercy Home provide young people with the safety, healing and opportunity they deserve. What better way to get in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit?