The 14th Annual Celtic Connection took place virtually on Saturday, March 5th. The event committee joined together this year to plan another outstanding Building Friends for a Cure (BFC) community fundraiser honoring Irish heritage. Celtic Connection has become the largest BFC event through the outstanding support of sponsors and the dedication and motivation of the longstanding committee including Julie Berry, Dan Coffin, Kathi Coffin, Bob Healy, Peggy Iverson, Siobhan Lestina, Richard Lovrich, Chase Walsh, Fred Walsh, Kailey Walsh, Ginger Watkins and Rick White. This year’s event raised over $100,000 for Alpha-1 research and programs.
In advance of Celtic Connection, each attendee was sent a “Celtic Party in a Box” filled with green beads, decorations, Irish recipes and more. This year’s program was hosted once again online using the Zoom platform. The day tipped off with Kailey Walsh singing the Star-Spangled Banner. Committee members welcomed guests and encouraged them to bid on featured online auction items. Attendees from all over the country then “boarded” a virtual flight to Ireland. The simulated experience put smiles on everyone’s faces, as we “zoomed” off to Limerick, Ireland. Upon arrival, guests were greeted by a live tour guide, Hazel, who welcomed us in Gaelic with “Céad ile fáilte”, which means “One Hundred Thousand Welcomes”. Hazel led everyone through this high traveled destination on the other side of the world.
Hazel showcased the beautiful streets of Limerick ending along the Shannon River. Tourists were in the streets on this brisk 49 degree day, enjoying the sites and the opportunity to be out safely again from the pandemic. Guests enjoyed the sites of beautiful, old buildings, St. Mary’s Cathedral, King John’s Castle with its cannons, the statue of famous poet, Michael Hogan and legendary pub, Katie Daly’s. Interesting facts were learned about the city including that Limerick was the template for New York City’s streets.
A highlight of the Celtic Connection event has been the talented youth dancers from a local Irish dance studio, Harney’s Academy of Irish Dance located in Walpole, Massachusetts. Richard Lovrich had the opportunity to interview Liam Harney behind the scenes with these phenomenal dancers, students and leaders.
“What an incredible event for the Alpha-1 community, connecting everyone in an innovative way in the virtual world for this annual tradition. It was so nice to join friends, family and our outstanding physicians and researchers that have been a part of this event for so many years. We also toasted all of the Alphas that we miss dearly and celebrated their lives sharing wonderful memories. Past Schleigh Award winners joined and shared their continued dedication and commitment to Alphas worldwide. It made me so proud to be a part of this day and gather with those that move our mission forward,” exclaimed Fred Walsh, Board of Director and Celtic Connection Committee Member.
Professor Gerry McElvaney, Alpha-1 Foundation Board of Director, Chairman of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, joined live from his Dublin laboratory with his sons Dr. Oisin McElvaney and Dr. Oliver McElvaney. McElvaney’s laboratory has a well-established track record in Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency research and Cystic Fibrosis research. Their work on lung defenses has led to interactions with pharmaceutical companies interested in translational research, bringing the cure from the benchside to the bedside. Professor McElvaney emphasized the importance of research registries and how crucial each patient is to finding a cure for Alpha-1.
Dr. Robert “Sandy” Sandhaus together with his wife Dot kicked off the toasts with a whimsical limerick. Everyone raised a glass as Sandy toasted, “May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.” Guests toasted alongside the committee the good fortune that we can all be together in-person with friends and family next year on the 15th anniversary of this Alpha-1 Foundation tradition. During this time, our Alpha-1 physician researchers including Dr. Jeanine D’Armiento, Dr. Darrel Kotton, Dr. Andrew Wilson, Dr. Craig Hersh and Dr. Ed Silverman were able to say a few words about their experiences working with the Alpha-1 community. Thank you to the generous sponsors that made this event possible. Presenting Sponsors: AlphaNet, CSL Behring, Grifols and Takeda Event Sponsors: Arcadia Health Solutions, Cadwgan Family, Echo Star, Ergonomic Group, Joe Reidy and Vectra.
For more information on this year’s Celtic Connection event or to make a donation, please visit:
View more images from the event here: