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HollyDays Fundraiser Coming To Cork & Kerry, Barney Callaghan's Pub

October 16, 2017 8:17am | Updated November 2, 2017 8:30am
Nate Simon (middle) stands beside fellow salespeople for I Am Who I Am's bath products. This line of soaps, lotions, bath bombs and more will be for sale at HollyDays from 6-10 p.m. Saturday at both Barney Callaghan's Pub and Cork & Kerry in Beverly.
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BEVERLY — Holly Simon has playfully renamed her annual HollyDays fundraiser the HollyHop this year.

The new label comes with a change in venue as the benefit will be held from 6-10 p.m. Saturday at both Barney Callaghan's Pub and Cork & Kerry. The event meant to showcase children born a bit different took place at the Beverly Arts Center for the past five years.

Simon, the wife of a Chicago Police Department lieutenant, said the neighboring bars at 10614 and 10618 S. Western Ave. will simultaneously host the fundraiser that will feature more than 20 vendors selling soaps, jewelry, artwork and more.

Many of the vendors are children who have directly benefited from Simon's I Am Who I Am charity, which she founded in January 2012. She started the group with the burning memory of the day her son, Nate, was born Nov. 26, 2003.

Rather than congratulate Simon on the arrival of her fifth child, doctors and nurses apologized. Nate showed early signs of Down syndrome, prompting a script that straightaway went to talk of his immediate and long-term care.

Lost forever was the joyous moment meant to celebrate the newborn's arrival, Simon said.

She has since made it her mission to be sure others avoid the same fate. So her charity delivers blankets to hospitals for babies who are born a bit different. I Am Who I Am also provides information for their parents, offering support and letting them know they are not alone.

And finally, Simon speaks with doctors, nurses, school children and really anyone else who will listen about the importance of celebrating all children — no matter how they look or act.

"Even though we are working with many teens and adults now, our mission never changes, which is to erase the 'I'm sorrys' in the delivery rooms," said Simon, who sent Nate off to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences this year.

As he has grown, Simon has expanded her scope a bit to include a line of soaps, lotions, bath bombs and other products under the I Am Who I Am label. The idea is to give differently-abled children an opportunity to become entrepreneurs.

The program was on full display last month at the Beverly Art Walk, where Simon set up a table to sell the products. Those stationed at the table proved to be fearless salespeople approaching anyone who would listen with their pitch, she said.

Attendees of HollyDays this year can expect a similar experience, as the fundraiser also promotes inclusion and awareness by introducing buyers to the craftspeople behind the products.

The change in venue will have more of a bar crawl feel this year, making the vent more casual. Those interested in attending can merely stop by. Donations are accepted at the door, but not required, Simon said.

She also said the fundraiser will feature various raffles and other happenings that help fund I Am Who I Am throughout the year. There will be some free food and a cash bar will also be available.

HollyDays started as an Oktoberfest-style block party in 2006. Simon sold handbags for charity at the first event. There was some talk of returning to these humble roots this year, but Simon said the bars provide a better venue for those simply curious and others looking to support the charity.

"What a great opportunity for our community to come out and meet our children," she said.