By Seth Daniel
For more than three decades, the Bunker Hill Associates have planned and helped to plan exciting events for the Charlestown Pride Week – everything from the Family Feud to the Associates Breakfast and about 15 other singular events in between.
It has turned out to be a 12-day spectacle that no one in the Town can miss, with every day having something fun to do and some event to enjoy leading up to the Bunker Hill Day Parade on June 11.
It has been a trailblazing effort by some real community pioneers, and this year a new path is being cut as the effort is being headed up by an all-female leadership group, with Carolyn Wrenn Shannon taking up as president and Kim Mahoney as vice president.
“This started with a group of guys who wanted to give back to the community,” said Mahoney. “These guys were trailblazers, visionaries, and they started something great that is still going and we are continuing.”
Added Shannon, “You have a whole group of concerned community members who want to bring excitement to the parade and pride in the community. We happen to be the first two women to be president and vice president. Cookie Giordano was the first female president, but there has never been a president and vice president until now.”
Founders Joe McGonagle and John Tagliatella have nothing but praise for Shannon and Mahoney taking the reins, saying that it was formerly an all-boys club, but in recent years strong women from the Town have begun to take on leadership roles.
“People saw that these women could dot the ‘i’s and cross the ’t’s and they were getting things done,” he said. “I think they’re doing a great job and we’re happy to see the energy and excitement that they’ve brought.”
Already, one of the signature fundraising events, the Family Feud (which will take place on Weds. June 7 at 7 p.m.) has a record number of teams. Tagilatella will be the emcee, and Shannon said they now have 24 teams registered for the bragging rights, highly competitive – yet fun – trivia contest. The previous record for teams, Tagliatella said, was 22, so things are off to a great start.
“All of these events have great meaning to different people,” said Mahoney. “Whether its the Associates Breakfast or the Touch a Truck event, every single event has a different aspect. We touch upon every age group with the week-long schedule to try to boost up the pride in the parade and the community.”
Said Shannon, “The Family Feud is good natured fun with that competitive edge that Townies have. They want the bragging rights, but they also want to get together with the community and win so that they can donate the proceeds to the charity of their choice.”
The Associates Trivia night, held last month, along with Family Feud and the Associates Breakfast make up the major fundraising events for the non-profit organization. Many don’t know that, along with coordinating Charlestown Pride Week, the Associates also give away substantial money to non-profit organizations in the Town though a grant process at the end of the year.
“We are a non-profit organization and we do give back to the community,” said Mahoney. “This year we expect to surpass $400,000 given back to local non-profits over the 32 years of our existence.”
That is why the Associates Breakfast is seen as very important.
No one can withstand parade day without attending the breakfast, both women said.
This year’s breakfast is going to be a tribute to first responders, and it will be in honor of the late Martin O’Brien – who passed away this year and was a past president of the Associates and a retired Boston Firefighter.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. David King, a trauma surgeon from Mass General who lives in Cambridge and has kids that attend the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club.
King is noted for having run the Boston Marathon the year of the bombing, finishing with a fast time well before the bombing. After going home from the race and turning on the TV, he saw the news of the bombing.
“So, after running a marathon, the reported right to MGH and worked on the trauma patients there non-stop for something like 48 hours straight,” said Mahoney.
“He will be a very exciting guest,” said Shannon. “He was also credited with saving the life of the two police officers in East Boston earlier this year. He is really big on tourniquets. That’s what made him famous.”
The two women make great effort to recognize the foundation that they’re building upon, noting that the men who started the Associates were very forward-thinking about community involvement. They have taken that foundation and used their own bond as well to build upon it.
Shannon was a mentor to Mahoney years ago when she worked under Mayor Ray Flynn in the Recreation Department and was able to access great funding opportunities to steer young people like Mahoney in the right direction. It’s from that dedication, Mahoney said, that she has become so involved in the community.
“For me, it’s a great honor to be her vice president,” said Mahoney.
If Townies blush, at that moment, Shannon did.
From the sentimental to the practical, this year’s Charlestown Pride Week calendar includes 20 activities from June 3 to June 17, a good deal of them that are planned by their partnering organizations such as Arthur Hurley’s Bunker Hill Day Parade Committee.
This year, some new things on the docket include the Charlestown Flag Raising at City Hall on Friday, June 9, at noon.
The Edna Kelly Doll Carriage Parade will remain in Eden Street Park again this year on Saturday, June 10. Chief Marshal Robert Beckwith has initiated a Marshal’s Block Party at the parking lot at 500 Main St. for Saturday afternoon, June 10.
As always, the Parade will kick off at 12:30 p.m. at Hayes Square on the Sunday before Bunker Hill Day (June 17), which this year is June 11.