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Ronald McDonald House, Smith Village named honorees for South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Ronald McDonald House Charities and Smith Village will be the grand marshal and honoree for the South Side Irish Parade, organizers announced Wednesday.

When thousands of residents line Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th Streets at noon on March 17, it will mark 45 years since the first parade. It has now become the “largest community based St. Patrick’s Day Parade outside of Ireland,” according to a spokesperson for the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Heritage Foundation.

The grand marshal is the Ronald McDonald House Charities, a nonprofit organization that supports sick children by ensuring their families can stay with them while they undergo treatment. Ronald McDonald House also provides some basic care, meals and shelter for patients and their loved ones.

“We really believe when a child is sick, the family is sick,” said Holly Buckendahl, the chief executive officer for the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana branch of the Ronald McDonald House Charities. “We exist to help them get better together.”

The charity allowed families of sick children to save more than $9 million cumulatively by providing food and lodging, according to the charity.

Families can also benefit from Ronald McDonald House’s services no matter where they live thanks to a newly expanded mobile service. Two buses outfitted with small mobile care rooms and packed with food travel the north and south suburbs to deliver services directly to patients and their families.

“We provided 6,800 vaccines and 1,300 physicals to underserved kiddos in our community,” said Anne Czarnecki, the regional director of the Ronald McDonald House. “This care mobile comes right to a school or a community center and serves kids right in their own communities.”

Czarnecki said while there is no donation attached to being the grand marshal of the parade, the charity hopes the name recognition that comes from the parade will lead to volunteers, donations and an increase in community knowledge about the service.

Residents of Smith Village are recognized Wednesday as honoree for the South Side Irish parade. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown).Smith Village, a senior living facility on Western Avenue and 113th Street, is also being honored as the parade honoree. Smith Village is marking its 100th year of operation.

The South Side Irish Parade is known for its decades of advocacy on behalf of Irish culture and community. Wednesday’s news conference was ushered in with the shrill yet melodic tones of a bagpipe performance and the honorees were given banners in classic Irish green color patterns.

The parade runs from noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, kicking off at 103rd Street and Western Avenue, marching south to 115th Street and Western Avenue.

There is also a pre-parade fundraiser to help support the festivities. For $50, individuals can buy tickets to attend an evening of music, food and drinks on Mar. 2 at 115 Bourbon Street. For fans of the parade, that is when the parade queen will be announced. Information is availalblle at southsideirishparade.org.

hsanders@chicagotribune.com