Lauraine Mulally will join her son in leading this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade through downtown Lawrence.
You can bet they'll be riding in a Ford.
Alan Mulally, president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co., has accepted the title of grand marshal for the 20th annual parade that benefits children's charities in Douglas County.
The executive who grew up in Lawrence, graduated from Lawrence High School and earned engineering degrees from Kansas University said he didn't hesitate to embrace the offer to cruise down Massachusetts Street in style.
"(I) want to join my mother and hold hands riding through wonderful Lawrence," he said.
Mulally's visit will be his first public stop in town as Ford's top executive, a post he accepted in September. Mulally previously worked for 37 years at The Boeing Co., including the final eight as leader of the company's commercial airplanes business.
"He's a Lawrence boy that's been very successful, and we're very, very proud of him," said Gene Shaughnessy, a longtime parade organizer. "He's willing to take time out of his very important duties to help out the parade, and that says a lot. It doesn't happen every day of the week."
His mother has plenty of parade experience, as Lauraine Mulally and her husband, Dick, served as the parade's senior queen and king in 1993. Dick Mulally died in 2001, but Lauraine continues to support fundraising efforts and has been riding in the last 13 parades, always wearing her crown.
Efforts of the all-volunteer St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee have generated $500,000 in donations since 1987, including $50,000 a year ago. This year's beneficiaries:
¢ O'Connell Youth Ranch, a group home that provides programs and support for boys placed in state custody through the court system.
¢ Project Kindergarten, a program run by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical to provide a bicycle safety helmet, coloring book and other safety programming for all kindergartners in Douglas County.
¢ Strategic Education Center, whose operations include the financing of scholarships for youths ranging from 5 to 12 years old to participate in a summer program that provides reading and math classes at South Park Recreation Center.
This year's parade starts at 1 p.m. March 17 at South Park, with more than 100 floats expected to make their way through the heart of downtown and into North Lawrence.
Laird Noller Automotive, which sells Fords in Lawrence, already is working on activities in conjunction with the event, and dozens of area businesses will be called on to donate products, services and money for the parade and related activities, including a trivia contest Feb. 25, an auction March 3 and a Shamrock Shuffle Fun Run on March 10.