BEVERLY — Rather than play a bad shot, golfers will occasionally take a "mulligan" or a "do-over."
Life isn't nearly as forgiving, and that's where the Mulliganeers step in. The charity has been helping needy families — typically those financially sideswiped by a sudden, medical emergency — since 1995.
In honor of their efforts to financially assist Chicago-area families, the Mulliganeers have been named grand marshal of the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The 2014 parade returns for its 36th year at noon on Sunday. The Mulliganeers will be among the 100 groups marching from down Western Avenue from 103rd Street to 115th Street. Some 150,000 spectators are expected in what's become the largest neighborhood-based St. Patrick’s Day Parade outside of Dublin.
"These guys [the Mulliganeers] are the unsung heroes," said Kevin Coakley, co-chairman of the South Side Irish Parade. "They help people without anyone even knowing it."
The Mulliganeers have given $4.3 million to 275 families since being founded by a group of long-time friends who sought to make a difference in the lives of children, said Julie Reilly, administrator for the charity based in suburban LaGrange.
"We don't want a child to be sick and in the hospital for six months, only to come home and the family has lost the house," Reilly said.
She added that most families who turn to the Mulliganeers are living paycheck to paycheck. These middle class families quickly find themselves thrust into financial peril when a child gets sick or another unexpected tragedy occurs.
Michael and Tina Kaczynski of Mount Greenwood are one such case. Michael, a Chicago Police Officer, and Tina, a stay-at-home mom, welcomed their third daughter, Ashley, into the world three years ago.
Ashley Kaczynski spent her first six months of life in the hospital where she was diagnosed with CHARGE Syndrome.
She was born blind in one eye and with very little vision in the other. She was also deaf. In addition, Ashley Kaczynski had a heart murmur and two holes in her heart. The passage between the back of her nose to her throat was also completely blocked. She had to be fed through a tube.
Ashley Kaczynski has had many surgeries since birth, and the Mulliganeers have helped out all along the way. Though it's been a tough road. Yet the Kaczynski family feels blessed to have Ashley in their lives and would never ask to change a thing about their baby sister or their experiences they've had alongside her.
"There's a wide range of what we've done to assist families," Reilly said.