“It was a really, really, really cool special event, it was very heart-warming…it gave you an amazing buzz when it was all done,” – so says Oran McGonagle on the Homes of Donegal fundraiser in Boston, which brought in a substantial proportion of the €94,000 he and his peers raised in Boston for the Donegal Flood Appeal.
Oran McGonagle, a Donegal native living in Boston spearheaded a fundraising initiative in the Massachusetts city which brought in no less than €94,369 (approximately $111,000 USD). It is a staggering amount of money and suffice it to say when Oran and co. set out in their endeavours they were not expecting to collect so much. Rather, their goal was $10,000, but within three days they had collected close to $30,000!
Why does he think so much money was brought in, so quickly?
“I guess Donegal people have a perception that we’re kind of left alone up the top of the country…we have a feeling that we have to help out or they’re not going to get what they need.” Oran also attributes the generosity to the personal connection Irish people living in Boston have with Inishowen. “It was the stories of the individual people losing all their stuff and then that community – the Clonmanys, the Burnfoots – many of the crowd over here that were involved in it are from those areas. Everybody knew someone that was involved so we were getting pretty up-to-date, first-hand information on what was actually happening. It wasn’t somebody saying “help us out here” or “these people need it”, it was more like “Mary needs it, and you know who Mary is.”
Oran says it wasn’t just people from Donegal who were involved. “It was everybody, we had Derry, Dublin, Cork and Kerry, we had people from all over the island.” The fundraising efforts received a lot of Irish-American backing too, for example from people “who were here maybe 50/60 years ago, their Mum and Dad might have brought them over – we had people who were second generation whose family came from the area but they have never been there. They wanted to help out, which was a really nice thing to do. One family came and said ‘we just want to help because our great grandparents came from there,’” explains Oran.
The fundraiser was given the name “Homes of Donegal” after the Paul Brady song. Six different bands played all day and there was a silent auction for which they received a lot of very valuable donations such as Moville Pottery, an Irish soccer jersey signed by the whole team and signed Dublin and Mayo jerseys. They had a live auction as well with five live items including a trip to Ireland, an “actual tractor” – an antique working Massey Ferguson if you’re wondering – donated by a man from Donegal who lives in Chicago. “That sat outside the venue with the Donegal flag on it,” says Oran. “It looked really cool, it got us $13,000 USD.” The “Home of Donegal” fundraiser received messages of support from Daniel O’Donnell, Nathan Carter and Donegal football captain Michael Murphy.
Oran says that on the day of the fundraiser itself, it all came together really well and they raised a grand total of over $70,000 USD. “When we finished the fundraiser at the end of the day we didn’t really know anything, or what we had. We went into a room – a kind of safe room in the building and we started figuring out, and counting money and it was just amazing, it was really amazing. We added up what we took on credit cards and then we just had a crazy amount of money. We had donation boxes all over the room as well so we’d dollar bills, five dollar bills, cheques, 20 dollars, 100 dollars, all kind of thrown in everywhere so we all just sat around the table and we ate some Irish soda bread and we counted the money up. When we’d finished most of us just sat there for a few minutes just going like “wow” …we were speechless really to be honest.
Oran is keen to stress that there was a very big group behind these efforts – from all over Ireland. “It wasn’t just an individual or two individuals, it was a whole group of people made it successful. The fundraiser was a really, really, really cool special event, it was very heart-warming and it was something that I had never done before, it was just – ah it gave you an amazing buzz when it was all done.”