My 2014 Panther Valley Irish American Shamrock Award Acceptance Speech

          Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

          What a honor!   Wow!  Wow!   Wow!   I never thought I would be nominated to receive the Shamrock Award and to be named the Irishman of the Wear.  What an honor it is for me to be here tonight at the Panther Valley Irish American Association banquet,  to accept the 2014 Shamrock Award. I am the youngest person who received the Shamrock Award. That is so amazing to me. I accept this award with great honor and appreciation.

          I would like to thank Kelly's Irish Pub for holding this Shamrock Award dinner. I would also like to thank the Panther Valley Irish American Association’s new president, Ben Walker.  Now,  Ben just assumed the presidency of this association. I would like to take this time to congratulate him. Congratulations Ben. You are a true Irish American. However, on Monday, I learned he went to Penn State, which is a great university, and he has the right to be proud. But he does not like the FightingIrish of Notre Dame. Imagine that, an Irishman who does not like Notre Dame. That is unheard of. That blows my mind! Ben, you do know that I could not leave that you don't like Notre Dame out of my speech. Don't worry, there is plenty of time for us to convert you to a Notre Dame fan. If not, you are missing out big time.    

          Anyway, I figured I would join the Panther Valley Irish American Association someday. I have not joined yet, but I still would like to. So guys, where is my application? I will get to a meeting someday to join. Who knows, it might be the next meeting, a year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, who knows? I have been talking about joining this great association for years now, but I haven't had a chance. Although, I mentioned to Tim Hoben last Sunday that I would like to join this association and his reply was: with receiving the Shamrock Award, I automatically become a member. So I guess I am a member now.

          Today is my birthday as well. God couldn't have picked a better day for me than March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, for me to be born. I share my birthd. ay with two of my distant  family members on both sides of my family. On the O’Donnell side, I share my birthday with Catherine O'Donnell Hoben, the mother of my cousins Tim, Terry, Lenny, Patty and Shawn Hoben. On the O’Gurek side, I get to share my birthday with our cousin, Margie NovaK as well. Having my birthday on St. Patrick's Day means so much to me.I get to celebrate my birthday on the greatest day of the year for the Irish. To receive this honorable award on St. Patrick's Day and on my birthday means the world to me.  

          I would like to thank all of my family and friends who are here tonight. I would especially like to thank my parents, Robert and Patricia O’Gurek, my brothers, Justin and Ryan, and my sister Trish, for the continued care and support they give me all my life. Did you hear that Trish? Thank you for coming Trish Trish Trish Trish Trish Trish Trish Trish! This better make up for my graduation speech with you Trish! Now when you talk to people, you can say I didn't forget to mention you in my Shamrock Award speech! I love each and everyone of you.   

          When two of my cousins, Billy O’Gurek and Tim Hoben, came to my house to tell me I was nominated to received the 2014 Shamrock Award, and to be named the Irishman of the Year by the Panther Valley Irish American Association, my first reaction was I was completely surprised. I just sat there completely amazed and numb. I never expected I would be nominated for this honorable award. There are so many worthy people in this great valley who are Irish that should be up here. I am really humbled and grateful for everyone's support and nomination.

          With that said, there are so many of my family and friends here tonight who played a huge role in my life and continue to do so. I don't think I will be able to mention all of you, but I would like to take the time to thank some of them. Thank you to Robert and Patricia O’Gurek, Justin, Trish, and Ryan, my uncles and aunts, my cousins, my educational support assistants, Bonnie Young, Linda Romankow, Gary and Peggy Grant, Sonia Pucklavage, Carol Thomas, Lisa Butala Macalush, the teachers in the Panther Valley School District,  the professors at Lehigh Carbon Community College, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, all of my friends, David Ogozalek and John Shemansik, my personal care attendants, Missy MacDonald, Mary Poko, Tayler Gottschall, Danielle Rodgers, Jenny Kosciolek, Amy Beers, Juliann Gieniec, Lisa Clouser, my valued clients of my web design business, Dave Mattrazzo, and my brothers in the Diligence Fire Company No. 1 of Summit Hill.  I can not express how much I am grateful and thankful to every one of you! I know I wouldn't be as successful without everyone's support. I am very very lucky I have an awesome support system in my life! If it wasn't for my awesome support system, I don't know where I would be.

          With receiving this award tonight, it makes me more proud of my Irish heritage. I have Irish in my blood. On my Mom's side of my family with the O’Donnell name. So many of people think my Irish heritage resides on the O’Gurek side of my family,  because of the O apostrophe in O’Gurek. I would be very confused too, because usually when some people are Irish, they have the O apostrophe in their last name. Well, they are shocked when I tell them it is not Irish, it is Polish. However, m grandfather O’Donnell was Irish. I never met my grandfather, William O’Donnell, because, unfortunately,six years before I was born, he passed away. This past Saturday, we had a church service for him because tomorrow, March 18th, is the 40th anniversary of my grandfather's passing. 

          When I hear stories about my grandfather, I think to myself, wow, My Uncle Joe O’Donnell seems like to be a mirror image of him. I just don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I will let you all decide for yourself since most of you know him personally anyway. Don't worry uncle Joe, I won't tell all of the stories about when we go out to Notre Dame. I know my speech is long, but if I would start telling stories about when we are out in Notre Dame, we would be here all night long. Although my aunt Maggie told me to keep my speech short. Aunt Maggie, I am an O’Gurek. You should know the O’Gureks can't shut up.  The master of ceremonies and the guest speaker is proof of why I don't have a short speech. I follow in very good foot steps with my Uncle Bill and my cousin Billy.  

          Do you want to know what is odd about being related to my cousin Billy?  I don't know if you all realize this but, we are related on both sides of my family, the O’Gurek side and the O’Donnell side. So Billy,  this means you are my first generation cousin and my third generation cousin. If you really think of it, you and Erin are as close as you can be from being my brother and sister. If people would hear this off the street, they would think, what is wrong with that family.  

          Since I am talking about both sides of my family, I have two uncle Joes - my uncle Joe O’Gurek, who is my godfather, and my uncle Joe O’Donnell also known as Fuzzy. Uncle Fuzzy always jokes with me, because he says he is the bad Uncle Joe and my Uncle Joe O’Gurek is the good Uncle Joe. Uncle Fuzzy, you can not say that any better than that, that is for sure!

          My grandfather O’Donnell married Marie Evans, my Nanny. It is very special to me to have her here tonight. I always enjoy spending time with her, but it is difficult in the winter. Thank you for coming Nanny, I love you.

           My Irish heritage pride does not stop at my Irish background. Ever since I was a child, I love the Fightin' Irish of Notre Dame, especially in football. When I was young, my dad always took me, my brothers and sister out to South Bend, Indiana to see the Blue and Gold game. That was fun. As I got older and became an adult, I started to go on the guys' trip. The past two years of going out to Notre Dame were very special to me and I know the guys will agree with me with saying this. Two years ago, we were lucky to have John Toot O’Gurek, my uncle and your come along with us. I know he had a great time. Well last year, unfortunately,he wasn't there. I think all of the guys who went last year will agree there was always the feeling like somebody was missing. I don't know if it was just me who felt that or everybody felt it. I feel everybody did. We had a great time this year. We had a safe trip out, Notre Dame beat Michigan State, and, oh yeah, I got everyone kicked out of the Linebacker. I still can't believe that.

          I am very grateful for all of my family and friends who came out tonight. Thank you for coming. Before I end my speech, I have a special ending to my speech that I would like to do. I know this night is suppose to be my night and it is. But to end my speech, I would like to take a moment to remember somebody. A year ago, we lost somebody near and dear to me and my family's heart, John Toot O’Gurek. He is looking down on us from heaven tonight. He would be here tonight if he could. I just know it.

        Now to end my speech, I would like to play a song on my communication device in honor and memory of my Uncle Toot. Now, you have to understand, I went back and forth with myself about doing this and I reached out to a few people who couldn't come tonight to get their feeling on if I should do this. They said Bobby, it will be a wonderful tribute to your uncle. So I am going to do it. This song isn't really for remembrance. It is an up tempo song. However, he loved this particular song and I want to play it. He loved the Fightin' Irish of Notre Dame. So I am going to end my speech with the Notre Dame Victory March in remembrance of my Uncle Toot O’Gurek.  

          Thank you.

This is for you Uncle Toot, we will always remember you.   

Go Irish!