Logan Mencke

Staff Writer

Members Lorain County Community College’s Caring Advocates for Recovery Education (CARE) Center will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day along with Sober Seventeenth at an alcohol-free event.

Beginning in 2014, Sober Seventeenth is a nonprofit organization that strives to reclaim the reputation of St. Patrick’s Day as a festivity of binge drinking and observe what the holiday truly represents; a day to honor Irish culture through music and dance.

Sober Seventeenth was influenced by other Irish addiction organizations, including Recovery in a Safe Environment (RISE). RISE was founded by Irish singer Francis Black.

Chairman and president of Sober Seventeenth Jack Kilroy helped raise money for Black’s organization and would go on to meet her at a reception for potential donors in New York City. It was during this event that Kilroy met Bill Reilly, the founder of Sober St. Patrick’s Day.

“I had read about it a year previously and thought it was a pretty cool idea,” said Kilroy. “[Reilly] asked ‘Why don’t you start doing one in Cleveland?’”  After considering Reilly’s suggestion, Kilroy decided to act on it and began contacting colleagues that were involved in the recovery and Irish communities to begin Sober Seventeenth.

The idea was met with skepticism from the beginning.

“We had a pretty good advanced sale of tickets, but when the doors opened we were just mobbed and had to turn people away,” said Kilroy.  

In addition to providing a sober environment for those in recovery, Sober Seventeenth’s St. Patrick’s Day event is also a way of countering the drunken Irish stereotype.  By bringing entertainers from Ireland and serving Irish food, the organization puts Irish culture back into the holiday and pushes away binge drinking.

“The first thing people learn about Irish culture is from St. Patrick’s Day and if what they’re learning is green beer and vomit, it perpetuates the stereotype and digs it even deeper,” explained Kilroy.  “We combat the stereotype by setting a different example by taking it back to what it ought it be about.”

This year’s celebration will be presenting authentic Irish performances. Step dancers from the award-winning Brady-Campbell School of Irish Dance will give a demonstration of traditional Irish dancing. Rebecca Brady, a native of Dublin, Ireland, and her husband Patrick Campbell are the founders and teachers, and both have performed internationally in Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance.”

James Kilbane, a multi-platinum folk singer from County Mayo, Ireland, will sing traditional Irish ballads, as well as modern Irish-themed songs such as ‘Forty Shades of Green’ by Johnny Cash.

The event begins at 5:00 p. m. and will be held in Ahern’s Banquet Center located at 726 Avon Belden Rd., Avon Lake. Tickets can be bought online at Sober Seventeenth’s website (www.sober17.org).  General admission is $20, tickets for students and seniors are $15, and $6 for children 10 and under.