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The Ireland Funds Mary Lee Duda and Fritz Duda (honorary co-chairs)

The Ireland Funds held its 2023 Texas Emerald Ball on March 18 at The Adolphus Hotel to raise much needed funds for organizations in Ireland.


The evening opened with a cocktail reception followed by Don Shannon playing the bagpipes to signal the start of the dinner and program. Once inside the ballroom, the 200 attendees clapped along as students from the Maguire Academy of Irish Dance performed Irish dances.


Caitriona Fottrell, The Ireland Funds President and CEO, welcomed everyone. “Our unofficial motto is ‘Come for the party, and stay for the mission.’” She talked about the funds reaching groups that work with those with disabilities and mental illness and which provide access to education in marginalized communities.


As Peace and Reconciliation is one of the organization’s pillars, she added that 2023 marks the 25th year of the Good Friday Agreement. “We are commissioned to stay another 25 years, and we will do whatever we can do to make sure the peace with Northern Ireland stays.”


Minister for Sport Thomas Byrne, T.D., Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, said, “The Ireland Funds have done much to harness the sense of connection and kinship among Irish Americans to achieve a purpose. We also acknowledge the unique contributions that America has made to peace with Northern Ireland, and that it’s bipartisan in nature, and I thank you.”


Most Reverend Greg Kelly, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, gave the invocation, followed by dinner.


The Ireland Funds video played showing the impact that the organization has made with various nonprofits.


Meg Finley, The Ireland Funds’ Vice President of Development, gave the mission moment. “All across the isle of Ireland, with your gifts, The Ireland Funds has provided support to countless individuals since it began in 1976.” She asked attendees to continue its support.


Thomas W. Codd, Texas Board Member, introduced Sylvia and John Tillotson, who received the Corboy Anam Cara award, which means “soul friend” in Gaelic. “They are true uplifters, exceptional loving parents, grandparents to 17 and friends to countless. They are truly great soul friends.”


John Tillotson remarked, “The Ireland Funds is in great shape.” He thanked Mike Corboy and the many other leaders including his wife, Sylvia, who helped the Texas chapter start and succeed. He added, “In the words of Dan Rooney who co-founded The Ireland Funds, “Let’s have fun tonight and raise money for Ireland.”


Sylvia Tillotson remarked, “I want to thank The Ireland Funds for this recognition. Through DNA testing, I’m nine percent Irish, so I can lay claim to this special Irish honor.”


Gary Kelly, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, Southwest Airlines, and recipient of The Ireland Funds’ 2020 Philanthropic Leadership Award, introduced Sean Donohue. He said, “It is a distinct privilege to celebrate Sean Donohue, a fellow Irishman. Sean is very amiable, knowledgeable, collaborative, has a wonderful leadership style. He’s straightforward, a straight-shooter and my friend.”


Sean P. Donohue, Chief Executive Officer, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, received the 2023 Distinguished Leadership Business Leader Award. He gave thanks to the distinguished guests, sponsors and his family. “Thank you to The Ireland Funds for this great honor and recognition. I am proud to be Irish. My Irish roots come from County Cork and County Kerry. As I live my life, I try to take my cue from Susan who I believe exemplifies the best of Ireland: grace, beauty, humility and always thinking of others before yourself.”


After the speeches, Chloe¨ Agnew, Irish singer and songwriter, and the youngest original member of Celtic Woman, entertained the guests. The party continued as attendees visited while listening to the pianist, Brian Piper.


Special thanks to Mary Lee and Fritz Duda, community leaders and Texas Emerald Ball’s honorary co-chairs. Additional thanks to The Ireland Funds Texas Board Members: Thomas W. Codd, Kevin M. Curley and Dolores L. McCall.


Special thanks to the sponsors.

Platinum Sponsors: Mary Lee and Fritz Duda, Suffolk Cares Charitable Foundation (Suffolk Construction)

Gold Sponsors: Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

Silver Sponsors: Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Thomas W. Codd, Kevin Curley and Darina O’Dowd, HNTB Corporation, Southwest Airlines, Sylvia and John Tillotson, Tillotson Johnson & Patton

Bronze Sponsors: AECOM, Atmos Energy Corporation, Alan and Maureen Cooper, Carla Fonts, Barbara and Ed Garahan, IDA Ireland, Dolores McCall, Linda and Tom McCarthy, R.M. Chin & Associates

The Ireland Funds is a global philanthropic network. Established in 1976, The Ireland Funds’ mission is to harness the power of a global network of friends of Ireland to promote and support peace, culture, education, and community development throughout the island of Ireland, and among Irish communities around the world. With chapters in 12 countries, The Ireland Funds has provided support to more than 3,200 deserving organizations across the globe. For more information, visit

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