There is no doubt, somewhere up in heaven, Dan Rooney’s Irish eyes were smiling this St. Patrick’s Day.
At an event he created, one he poured his heart and soul into, it was Rooney’s life and legacy that was celebrated at The Ireland Funds Pittsburgh Gala.
“It’s emotional, at times difficult, but at the same time it is something that should be celebrated,” said his son, Steelers President Art Rooney II, who spoke at the dinner and did the official toast. “I know the people who came in were excited to be part of it, Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, Bill Cowher, and General (Michael) Hayden. They were special to him. It was a special night.”
Heinz Field, the home of his beloved Steelers, was turned into the Emerald Isle for the night, as guests aglow in green shared stories and memories, tears flowing and laughter abundant.
Rooney, along with Pittsburgh businessman Anthony J.F. O’Reilly, created The Ireland Fund in 1976, which later merged with the American Irish Foundation to create the American Ireland Funds, the leading charitable organization benefiting Ireland, which has now become known as The Ireland Funds.
Rooney was a driving force in the success the organization had seen over the years, helping with The Ireland Funds’ mission of promoting programs of peace and reconciliation, arts and culture, education and community development throughout Ireland. During Rooney’s time as United States Ambassador to Ireland he visited every county in Ireland, helping to bring peace between the North and the South, something he took great pride in.
“People recognize that Ireland is better as far as bringing peace,” Rooney said prior to his passing. And that is what he wanted, what he dreamt about, for the country his family immigrated from. He wanted peace.
“It is amazing. My uncles always kidded him saying he took a trip to Ireland every year and turned it into a job,” said Art Rooney II. “He really loved the country, loved the people, and made it a part of his life that unexpectedly became one of the priorities in his life.”
The organization is one that isn’t just active in Pittsburgh, but has nationwide and international support. This year alone there were events from New York to San Francisco, and as far reaching as Australia and Japan, as it has reached a total of 12 countries. All a result of Rooney’s passion for helping Ireland.
The Ireland Funds of Philadelphia honored Art Rooney Sr. in 1989, a year after his passing, with the Humanitarian Award. The event in Pittsburgh has grown through the years, honoring those in business, sports and philanthropy who have had an impact on aiding the efforts in Ireland. Dan Rooney and the entire family were honored in 1993, Bill Cowher was honored in 1998, and Sidney Crosby in 2008, just to name…