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I did not even know i was nominated for such an honor so I was completely floored and honored to be told I was chosen to do this this year. I have a few links to share with those of you who are interested in reading about the parade’s history and success.  

Grand Marshal

  

First Female Grand Marshall Chosen for 2012 Mt.Holly's St.Patrick Day Parade

            Marie Hempsey, of West Deptford Township, NJ, is a woman who bares much responsibility- mother, wife, realtor, Project Children Coordinator, LAOH historian, friend, and her latest- Mt. Holly's 2012 St. Patrick's Day Parade Grand Marshall. As the first woman Grand Marshal, Marie chose the theme "Friendship, Charity. And Christian Unity".

    Born to an Irish-Catholic father and  Irish Protestant mother, both first generation, Marie knew about “The Troubles” in Ireland from a young age. Throughout her childhood, she didn't know many of her cousins because both of her parents angered their families in marrying each other. Due to the conflict, Marie grew up without any religious preference; but chose to become a Catholic in 1990. Her spirituality drives her to live with passion- a passion to help and nurture others.

    Marie has been a pillar of the Irish community in the area for years. In 1995, divine intervention led Marie to meet St. Frances Kirk, the Philadelphia area coordinator for Project Children at the time. While at an Irish festival in Gloucester City, NJ, Marie, her husband, and five children helped a nun they saw chasing Project Children fliers around on a windy autumn afternoon. It was then that the Hempsey family learned about Project children, a program that brings kids out of the troubled areas of Northern Ireland into the United States for four weeks every July during "riot season". The Hempsey's hosted their first child in 2000. His name was Sean Haughey, the son of a former political prisoner who needed to get away from the turbulence in West Belfast for the summer. He was the first of eleven children Marie and her family has hosted so far, including the son of man who was murdered as a result of the collusion, grandson son of one of the Birmingham 6, girls that were abused during the Holy Cross Girls Primary School troubles, among other family members of martyrs, political prisoners, and patriots of Ireland. Marie not only opens up her home to these children, but truly opens up her heart.

            Chloe Mckernan, who will be staying with the Hempsey's for the 7th time this summer, said, "when I go to America in the summer, I don't see it as going to spend a month away from the trouble here in Ardoyne, I see it as going to spend a month with my family who I love so much." Chloe's mother, Jeanette Mckernan added, "Marie and Phil Hempsey took my 12 year old son Gary to their home for the summer so he wouldn't see the trouble and every year after that until he turned 18. My son did not see or hear the trouble that went on in Ardoyne,( Belfast, Northern Ireland)! Then my daughter Chloe became of age and she took her too. She changed their lives." Marie changes these children's lives not only by giving them a safe environment every summer, but also by showing them there is peaceful way to life. In the words, of Bobby Sands, "our revenge will be the laughter of our children."

    One child at a time, Marie is changing the face of Northern Ireland by removing these children from violence, deferring them from perpetuating it. Besides the children Marie has helped as a host mother, Marie has helped dozens more as the Philadelphia area coordinator, a position she accepted as Sister Frances resigned in 2003. The position requires her to raise funds, and find and coordinate host families in the Philadelphia area.

            Aside from her work with Project Children, Marie is also the historian and chairperson of immigration and legislation for the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Camden County Div 1, which she has been a member of since October 2010. Prior to joining the LAOH, Marie actively supported the Ancient Order of Hibernians Gloucester County Division 1, which her husband has been a member of since 2001.  In addition to her work with these organizations, Marie is constantly on the go with her family and as a real estate agent. She has been married to her husband, Phil Hempsey, for 24 years. Also, she has two daughters, three sons, and her elderly uncle that lives with her that she cares for. Marie received her real estate license in 2007, and works for Old World Realty, located in West Deptford Township.

  Marie has been mothering children of Ireland for over a decade now. Her huge heart and passion for Ireland has led her to change the lives of dozens of children across Northern Ireland. With a heart of gold and a smile on her face, Marie Hempsey considers all of her hard work for these children not a burden, but rather a blessing.

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