Archives For Tribute

The Human Race

MH3 —  April 18, 2013

Events, such as the Boston Marathon, are the ultimate celebration of humanity.

Endurance events celebrate human achievement that many thought impossible in themselves. Festivals provide a stage for expression and recognition. Sporting events bond people together and prove that team colours are thicker than red blood.

Events aren’t supposed to result in death, amputation, devastation.

Events aren’t supposed to result in CNN, 911, 617.

Events aren’t supposed to result in this.

There have been many, many call outs for us to soldier on, carry on, move ahead. Events and organizers around the world are putting on a brave face. All of us realize the need for beefed up security and additional diligence in our planning. I want to add to the choir.

Our industry might be perceived as fun and games. But we hold the key to The Human Race. We create experiences, joy, and triumph. Now more than ever we must continue to do so.

In this nonstop age of media onslaught, only events will ensure people connect physically. Only events will ensure that we get to know our neighbours. Only events will drive the fitness of our bodies and minds.

Almost every person who reads this blog contributes to that. You need to realize how important what you do, what you do each and everyday, is to society. Whether you are a sponsor, organizer, producer, marketer, volunteer, or a marathoner.

Whatever your marathon is… keep running. Keep organizing. Keep supporting.

Look into the faces of your participants and recognize the importance of what you do.

You don’t organize events. You build people.

Don’t let some nut stop that. It’s the best tribute we can pay to the victims, their families, and the countless people engaged with the Boston Marathon.

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It was much too late on Sunday, November 26th, 2005 (admittedly it was probably early the 27th) when I first heard the music.

The notes bounced off the the high ceilings and dramatic windows of the Pan Pacific lobby, inspired by the magical fingers of Maestro Eamonn O’Loghlin. Surrounded by a posse of enthusiastic conference goers and some of my staff, Eamonn led us through chorus after chorus of O’Canada, Danny Boy, and American Pie!

I hadn’t seen this side of Eamonn before that night. Until then, I knew him as the super-cheery Director of Sponsorship for the Canadian National Exhibition, who first called me years earlier about an emergency with one of our activations at the Ex. Thankfully the problem passed and even more fortunate for me, a friendship sprung up.

If you knew Eamonn, you knew he was more than a stalwart of our industry. He was a most fierce advocate of all things Irish. Publisher of Irish Connections Canada, host of an Irish radio show, and even interim President of the Irish Canadian Immigration Center. He was an accomplished musician, a tireless volunteer, and a fearless entrepreneur.

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But as the keynote speaker at his funeral this week said, words cannot describe Eamonn, for he was larger than life. Yes, I said funeral.

On January 4th, the music died. Suddenly. Tragically. Inexplicably. Eamonn was taken from his admirers.

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I’ve just returned from his funeral and my hands are numb as I type this. My fingers don’t want to extend to my keyboard. They are rebelling. Fighting back. Fighting back so hard. Trying to tell me that there is no way Eamonn is dead. My skin tingles. My throat is turned inside out. My chest is in pain.

I think when people die, their obituaries talk about how unique an individual was. How loved they were. I am not doubting that. Every death brings sadness. Every death brings despair. But we also know that most deaths reach a limited pool of people. Not Eamonn’s. No sir, this man was loved. Far. Wide. Universally. Internationally.

His funeral today was easily a thousand people. Last night I waited nearly two hours in line at his visitation. But the wait didn’t bother me. It allowed me to reflect on a great man. A man who had an impact that few of us could ever make. A man who touched hundreds, thousands, and left everyone with a smile. A man who you just wish could join you one last time on a bar stool for a pint or the first tee for a round of eighteen.

He would tease and joke with you, yet still deliver so much to his friends. At the 2010 sponsorship forum in Whistler, it was his word to John Furlong that resulted in the Olympic leader delivering an impromptu speech to my conference delegation. That was probably my most satisfying moment in business. I am not sure if I said thanks to Eamonn…..

Eamonn 5Writing this brings me back to that night seven years ago. The sing-song at the Pan Pacific resulted in a hotel security complaint about a “large foreigner” who wouldn’t stop playing the piano and a “man of colour” who kept shouting “I own this hotel”. I think we told any unsuspecting victim this yarn one-hundred times since. I think sometimes that’s the definition of friendship, being able to repeat the same stupid stories and laugh like it was your first telling.

Oh Eamonn, how I would like to tell that story one-hundred and ONE more times with you.