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Cloudy,50°
Friday, October 24, 2014
Head of the parade
John Maher/Herald
Grand Marshal Sean O’Rourke, right, and parade chairwoman Kathleen Schwarting at the Taste of Rockville Centre last month.

Sean O’Rourke, the Grand Marshal for this year’s St. Patrick’s Parade, has been a longtime supporter of the parade.

He joined Parade Committee in 1998 and has stayed active with it since. He was the Vice President for 2009 and 2010 and then served as President in 2011 and 2012.

“It was Bud Cosgrove that talked me into it,” O’Rourke said. “He said, ‘we need to get some Irish people involved.’

“They’re a great bunch of people,” he added. “They’re an unbelievable committee. Their whole heart is in it.”

O’Rourke came to America from Ireland in 1971, when he was 19. He lived in Cedarhurst for a year and then in Woodmere until 1983, when he moved to Rockville Centre. He has lived in the village ever since.

It was in August last year when the Parade Committee voted him to be this year’s Grand Marshal.

“I’m over the moon, as a fellow would say,” O’Rourke said of being Grand Marshal. “I felt like there were other people who probably deserved it a lot more than I did. It was a great honor.”

In addition to leading the parade on March 22, O’Rourke has been the figurehead at all of the fundraising efforts the parade has taken part in this year. The St. Patrick’s Parade, the Parade that Cares and Shares, gives money to three charities every year —a local charity, a national charity and an Irish charity. In the 17 years it has existed, the parade has given more than $788,000 to 52 charities.

The local charity for 24 is New Ground, Inc., which is devoted to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty for families and veterans by providing them with education, employment opportunities and financial literacy. The national charity is the Angleman Syndrome Foundation, which is seeking a cure for a disease that inflicts sever developmental delay, speech difficulties, seizures and more on young children. And the Irish charity is the Nassau County Ancient Order of Hibernians Feis and Festival, an annual celebration of Irish culture and history.

O’Rourke is making sure that leading the parade is a family affair. He will be marching at the head with his wife, Cynthia, and his children Heather, Cynthia, Thomas, Patricia and Breffni. He will also be joined by his grandchildren Thomas Decklan, Avea, Fenna, John and James, as well as his mother, who is flying over from Ireland, his uncles and some of his cousins. O’Rourke estimates that he will have 30 or 40 people marching with him.

“It’s a good thing I don’t have all my cousins [marching],” O’Rourke said. “I have 72 first cousins.”

Three priests from Dublin will also be flying to New York to help give the mass in the morning before the parade.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed a little bit with the whole thing, because it’s something that doesn’t happen too often,” said of leading the parade. “I just hope everything goes according to plan and we have a nice sunny day.”

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