A fitting tribute to a great mentor and volunteer

The New England Women’s Leadership Awards (NEWLA) will be held next Thursday evening at the Seaport World Trade Center Boston. The 19th annual awards dinner benefits the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester and has become the signature event of the year for this homegrown organization.

The NEWLA makes it a point to recognize women from all walks of life— but in particular those who have contributed mightily by giving back to communities, especially our own neighborhood.

This year the awards event boasts a great line-up of women who are distinguished in philanthrophy, business, and mentoring. One name in particular will jump out to Dorchester folks: Mary O’Brien, the Cedar Grove resident and longtime activist who has been a volunteer and mentor to countless kids and families across the city.

Mary Kinsella, vice president of Early Childhood Education and School Age Programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester, has observed O’Brien’s efforts for the last 15 years – when she first became involved with the Clubs when her daughter Caroline was a toddler.

“Mary is an amazing person,” said Kinsella. “She has helped so many families here at Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester in many ways. She volunteers for the Marr-lins swim team, organizing fund raisers and bake sales; she helps with literacy events; and she volunteers to assist us with our gift-giving project that is a collaboration with St. Brendan’s.

“I think the most amazing thing Mary does is to volunteer one week each summer to be a counselor at Camp Northbound. Camp Northbound offers the kids from the Club a chance to escape the sometimes stark realities of city life and gain new perspectives. The programs and activities she runs teach kids to explore new ideas, work in teams, and support one another. Mary oversees the youngest campers and she encourages the children to utilize their heads, their hearts, and their hands as they become increasingly self-aware of who they are and what they have to offer the world. “

Kinsella calls Mary O’Brien an unsung hero who “helps others because she can and she feels she should.”
Kinsella and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester have it right: People like Mary O’Brien — and the folks who run the BGCD— quietly make this community a better place every day. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like here without their good works.

Supporting next Thursday’s NEWLA event is a great way for all of us to say thank you to O’Brien and her fellow volunteers across the neighborhood. Full details on the event can be found online at bgcdorchester.org.

– Bill Forry