Eight nonprofits to split nearly $50K from St. Patrick’s Day Parade; Lawrence’s largest movie theater set to reopen

photo by: Andrew White

Crowds line Massachusetts Street to take in the Lawrence St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday, March 17, 2018.

Lawrence’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade was virtual this year, but the money it produced was real. Organizers announced they raised almost $50,000 to benefit area nonprofits that help children.

“As they always do, the Lawrence business community came through for us,” Janet Cinelli, co-executive director of the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee, said via email. “As they always do, our parade supporters came through for us too.”

If you remember, there was just a wee bit of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Lawrence this year. The big downtown gathering was canceled due to COVID, and in its place a few businesses decorated their storefronts for a “virtual parade.” (I can attest it was that type of year for all things Irish. My Irish coffee had virtually no coffee in it.)

The parade committee raises money through a variety of fundraising events leading up to the parade. Typically, the committee chooses a handful of nonprofits to be the beneficiaries of parade fundraising. Those nonprofits each deploy their own forces to help build momentum for fundraising. But it didn’t quite work that way this year.

“It was a year like no other,” Cinelli said via email. “Typically, the parade committee chooses its beneficiaries in August, and then as a team we spend six months holding events to raise money for the charities. As we began our planning last summer, we had no idea what this year would hold, and we felt we couldn’t ask any charity to put forth effort to an ending we couldn’t predict.”

Another challenge was that pandemic restrictions on gatherings also made fundraising challenging, as many of the fundraisers involve merriment in large groups.

Despite it, though, the committee raised $48,000 through eight fundraisers in 2021. During the winter, the group had sent a notice to area nonprofits that work with children inquiring about the organizations’ funding needs. Eight nonprofits responded, and Cinelli said the St. Patrick’s Day committee decided to divide the money equally among the eight groups who applied.

“We know the need is huge this year, so we felt it was right to give every charity who applied an equal portion of our fundraising success,” Cinelli said.

The eight groups, which each received $6,000, are:

• Baby Jay’s Legacy of Hope, an area organization that helps families who are battling childhood cancers.

• The Ballard Center, a longtime nonprofit based in North Lawrence that provides early childhood education plus food, utility and other assistance to families in need.

• Big Brothers Big Sisters, which operates one on one mentoring programs for area youth.

• Douglas County CASA, which provides court-appointed special advocates who work on behalf of children who have been removed from homes due to abuse, neglect or other circumstances that make them vulnerable.

• Lawrence Parents as Teachers, a local school district program that provides early childhood education to children and parents.

• O’Connell Youth Ranch, a longtime home on the eastern edge of Lawrence that helps young people find safety, stability and structure as they prepare for events such as foster care, adoption or reintegration with their families, among others.

• Tiny-K Early Intervention, which provides a variety of therapy services to children, including speech, physical and nutritional therapy, along with a variety of social work services.

• Van Go Inc., an arts-based nonprofit that provides after-school and summer jobs training programs to high-needs and underserved youth in the area.

Parade organizers are planning for the 2022 parade to be a more traditional one, and for many of its fundraising events such as Irish road bowling, the Shamrock Shuffle and the poker run to return to their more normal routines.

That also is expected to provide a boost to fundraising totals. The $48,000 raised this year was significantly lower than in recent years. For example, the St. Patrick’s organization provided $100,000 in funding in 2020, when the group was able to have its full complement of fundraising, even though the parade was canceled that year due to COVID.

Since its inception in 1988, the organization has raised more than $1.2 million for local charities.

In other news and notes from around town:

• A St. Patrick’s Day Parade isn’t the only thing lots of people have missed watching this year. Lawrence’s largest movie theater, the Regal Southwind Theatre on south Iowa Street, has been closed since October.

I’ve certainly been getting questions from readers about when that facility may reopen. Regal’s parent company has now posted information on its website listing that the Regal Southwind is scheduled to reopen on May 7.

Regal began reopening its U.S, theaters in April and hopes to have nearly all of them open by May 21. Regal also is scheduled to open theaters in Topeka and Wichita on May 7.

Liberty Hall, the movie theater in downtown Lawrence that plays all types of independent films, already is open.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Regal Cinema Southwind Stadium theater, 3433 Iowa St.

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