Sober SPD plans 2021 big tenth celebration

A sober yet always lively celebration St. Patrick's Day has been held for the past decade

By Irish Echo Staff

The Sober St. Patrick's Day organization is readying to celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2021.

And in anticipation of, and preparation for, this milestone 10th the foundation's board of directors has announced the selection of Tami Ellen McLaughlin as its new Executive Director.

“We believe family fun on the Irish national day is a vital option for dismantling harmful Irish stereotypes, raising the awareness of binge drinking, particularly among young people, and reclaiming what St. Patrick’s Day is about,” said founder and board chairman, William Spencer Reilly in a statement.

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“I am excited to work with Tami Ellen McLaughlin to lead Sober St. Patrick’s Day® into the future,” said Mr. Reilly.

“She brings extensive corporate and nonprofit experience to our foundation and an impressive network in the New York and Irish-American communities. The board is confident that with her stewardship our signature annual St. Patrick’s Day program will continue to grow in New York and expand to other cities in America, and abroad,” he added.

McLaughlin said she was thrilled to join SSPDF as it has been her goal to pivot to the nonprofit sector after a career in financial services communications.

“After having thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the last three New York City alcohol-free celebrations of Ireland’s patron saint — first as a guest and then as an event volunteer — I am honored to work with the board to commemorate the ten-year milestone, build on the movement’s ongoing success by expanding into new cities and schools, growing awareness, and amplifying the mission,” she said.

McLaughlin is a member of the Irish Business Organization of New York Executive Board. She also chairs the Women’s Networking Committee and has driven committee programming, project management, event structure, and social media strategy.

McLaughlin has extensive experience in financial services marketing and, according to the statement, has "a passion for nonprofit media and organizational support and has served as a volunteer and consultant for special events at Irish Arts Center, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and Sober St. Patrick’s Day®."

Sober St. Patrick's Day®, added the statement, has garnered much attention since its inaugural party in New York in 2012.

"Although the 2020 event was cancelled like all other parades and events due to COVID 19, many of the world-class musicians, singers, and dancers who signed on back in 2012 were headlining once again, including: John Whelan - seven time All-Ireland Champion Button Accordion Player; Brian Conway - five time All-Ireland Champion Fiddle Player; Donie Carroll, beloved Irish vocalist and "Cork's 2015 Man of the Year”; Brendan Dolan, master keyboard player; Dylan Foley, four time All-Ireland Champion Fiddle Player; Flynn Cohen, singer, guitarist, and mandolin player; Liz Simmons, singer and guitarist; the Donny Golden School of Irish Dance.

Concluded the statement : "Sober St. Patrick’s Day® was created by award-winning theater and television producer, William Spencer Reilly, who almost lost a member of his family to addiction in 2004. He first proposed the idea to leaders in the recovery and Irish American communities, a pitch that led, a year later, to the 2012 inaugural party. Now an annual event, Sober St. Patrick’s Day® is held on parade day in New York City. It continues to grow throughout the world. SSPDF Board members Sis Gallagher Wenger, Patricia O’Gorman, and John Coppola are all recipients of the SSPDF Emerald Spirt Award. This award is presented annually to honor extraordinary dedication and devotion to improving the lives of family members of alcoholics and addicts.

"SSPDF encourages collaboration with organizations and individuals interested in hosting similar events in the United States and internationally. In addition to the signature New York City event, SSPDF is proud to partner with organizations hosting Sober St. Patrick's Day® parties in Belfast, Dublin, Richmond, VA, Centerport, Long Island; West Warwick, Rhode Island, and Mystic, Connecticut."

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