Supporting the Jerry Lewis telethon, designed to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), was a Labor Day staple for Deb Rowe, owner of Shenanigans Irish Pub, and her family.
In part, it was a fun tradition filled with great entertainment. But having a younger brother with Muscular Dystrophy meant Rowe’s family also knew the importance of the cause behind the telethon first hand.
So Rowe eventually created her own platform to do good. And the popular Shucking for Shamrocks fundraiser is now in its 11th installment.
The event will run Saturday, August 31 to Monday, Sept. 2 at Shenanigans and will raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through one of the biggest parties of the year in Dahlonega, with live music, a silent auction and 1600 fresh oysters.
“The purpose is definitely to give back,” Rowe said. “ I kind of had this idea because my younger brother has Muscular Dystrophy and Labor Day weekend for people old enough to remember used to be their big telethon that Jerry Lewis put on, so it’s all Jerry’s kids….Why not throw a party, raise as much money as possible and see what we can give back to these organizations and see what they can continue to do? ”
And from that came one of Dahlonega’s biggest annual events. The initial draw in 2009 brought in $6,400 and a few years later increased to $10,000.
“Then my sister who was helping me with the silent auction, got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis,” said Rowe. “Then Cystic Fibrosis grew into it because we had a server that used to work here that had CF, Chauna Utterback’s niece has CF and for whatever reason, a twelve-year old kid that I know has CF. [It’s] actually an incredibly rare disease. I think there’s only a few hundred thousand people in the U.S. that have it, so it’s weird to know so many people.”
The obscure odds of knowing so many people affected by such rare diseases reaffirms that Rowe was meant to host the event.
After a decade of growth, the event and funds raised have both taken off.
“We’ve gone from that first few years raising up to $10,000 to this past year raising $40,000,” said Rowe. “It’s substantial. It kind of started off small and snowballed into something that’s impossible to stop. I think people look forward to it every year. It’s a great way to use [our platform.]”
ROOM TO GROW
This year’s edition of Shucking for Shamrocks is coming with some new improvements.
“It’s grown so big that we’ve actually added on a 40 x 40 tent this year, so in addition to covering this whole space and just having the silent auction out here in a 1,200 square foot area, we’re going to have some additional seating and have the silent auction in a 1,600 square foot area and really try to make it the boutique that it is,” said Rowe.
The silent auction is one of the major draws for the event each year, and this year’s auction boasts a retail value of approximately $30,000. Rowe is thankful for the community effort that goes into it.
“We get so much community support and so many people that are just giving, but also it’s a good platform to promote people’s business,” she said. “I’d say 90 percent of the stuff we have under the auction tent is literally local.”
And as the event continues to grow each year, Rowe’s goal stays the same.
“Our goal is always to raise one more dollar than last year,” she said.
A FUNDRAISER WITH FEELING
Spontaneity is another aspect carried over from Lewis’s telethon, which covered 21 ½ hours of live television, much of which showcased a range of unscripted emotions, also lives on through the Pub’s Shucking for Shamrocks.
“For the amount of money that we’re raising, there’s a lot of flying by the seat of our pants that happens, but it always happens,” Rowe said. “I’ve never slowed down enough to start a committee, so between my family and my friends and whoever I can sucker in for that year is how the event gets put on.”
And Rowe is still looking for volunteers for this year’s event as they need about 40 volunteers each day.
“Basically we’re asking for volunteers from 9 a.m. in the morning until close to 10 p.m. at night,” Rowe said. “If you’re an early bird, we’ve got shifts for you, if you’re a night owl, we’ve got shifts for you. That’s a great way to come out and have a good time. You’re going to be listening to music and hanging out with awesome Dahlonega folks, it really is probably one of the funnest volunteer opportunities that comes around.”
Improvements are already evident in the world of Muscular Dystrophy too, through the combined efforts of researchers and the fundraising of those supporting MDA.
“People are living longer,” said Rowe. “Usually somebody with Muscular Dystrophy wouldn’t make it out of their teens, let alone their 20’s. And now you actually see some of them making it into their 40’s. My brother just turned 40, which is pretty phenomenal. It just all was about helping support the organizations to do what they need to do to try to prolong life and to make life as good as possible for people that are affected with it.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at the Pub for Shucking for Shamrocks can find the signup link on the Shenanigans FaceBook page. Those wishing to donate to the silent auction can also still do so, as they’ve extended the deadline to Monday night. Shucking for Shamrocks begins on Saturday at 11 a.m.