Global Irish race to raise funds for charities in Ireland

Virtual baton to be passed between 15 cities worldwide for Irish Run the World event this Saturday

Everyone knows about St Patrick’s Day, or “St Patrick’s month” as it’s known in the US. But what about the other 11 months of the year? Is there room for another global Irish event when the diaspora can come together for a common purpose?

This was the question that I and a group of 150 Ireland Funds Young Leaders grappled with on a cold January's afternoon in New York in 2014, when we gathered for our third Global Young Leaders Summit.

I got involved with the Ireland Funds in 2009 in Chicago. I had been living in the US for five years, and was keen to find a way to stay engaged with home while giving something back. I attended Queen’s University in Belfast during the 1990s and saw first-hand the amazing work the Funds did in promoting peace and reconciliation through its philanthropic work, with a wide range of organisations from sports to education, and cross-community initiatives to arts and culture. The Ireland Funds had a Young Leaders programme I was able to get engaged with.

Since 1976, The Worldwide Ireland Funds, founded by Dr Anthony O'Reilly and former US ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, has raised over $500 million (€443 million) for Irish charities. The Funds are active in 12 countries and donors are from every corner of the world. What unites them is a shared connection to Ireland, whether as new emigrants or 4th and 5th generation Irish. The Young Leaders - supporters aged between 25 and 40 - decided it was time to pass the baton to the new generation of Irish living around the world. The answer was the "Irish Run the World" - a global 5km race.

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Last year, 11 cities across the globe participated, starting in Sydney with Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan as the race ambassador. The virtual baton was passed to Melbourne, London, Dublin, Boston, New York, Dallas, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Chicago before concluding in San Francisco.

The goal of the Young Leaders was to raise $100,000 for charities in Ireland, which was achieved with the help of global sponsor KPMG, and numerous other city sponsors who backed friends, families and clients who were running.

In Washington DC, we gathered in Georgetown Waterfront Park for a picturesque run along the banks of the Potomac River. After the race, runners took advantage of a gorgeous autumn day to celebrate their achievement.

This year’s run will take place this Saturday September 26th, starting with newcomer Brisbane and connecting 15 cities, including other new entrants Hong Kong, Toronto and Los Angeles. The goal is to raise another $100,000 for Irish charities, while providing a healthy event for Irish people and friends of Ireland to get together under a fun philanthropic banner.

Regardless of the city you are living in or visiting this weekend, whether it be London, Toronto, Chicago or Sydney, you can participate and play your part in raising much-needed donations for Irish charities.

To get involved, donate or run the Irish Run the World, click theirelandfunds.org/upcoming-events to take you to your city, and follow #ylglobal5k on Twitter.

Karen McMonagle is an Ireland Funds young leader based in Washington DC, originally from Galway.