Wild Irish Breakfast on tap Friday

Blarney masters sharpening their Irish wit for annual event

TELEGRAPH FILE PHOTO Chris Williams, "Blarney Master" for the 2017 Wild Irish Breakfast, laughs at a joke by U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, one of several "Irish Wits" who spoke at that year's event. This year's 28th annual breakfast is Friday.

He’s a Special Olympics medalist – cross-country skiing is his specialty – and an increasingly confident public speaker and performer who absolutely nailed his role as Paul McCartney in a Beatles tribute he and three other PLUS Company of Nashua clients staged at a recent donor appreciation night.

“I had a blast,” Jeff Hayward said, his sheepish grin growing broader as he recalled one of his favorite “claims to fame” in his 10 years with the PLUS Company.

Now, with that memorable performance – as well as his stint as the master of ceremonies at a PLUS silent auction – under his belt, Hayward is ready to wow yet another audience, that of the likely sellout crowd expected for Friday’s 28th annual Wild Irish Breakfast.

“You looking forward to it?” a visitor asked Hayward one day last week.

“To be honest with you, I’m a little nervous,” the 31-year-old Merrimack High School graduate admitted. Reminded that he successfully completed a PLUS-sponsored public speaking class – not to mention his proven stage presence – Hayward flashed that sheepish grin as if to say “oh yeah, you’re right, I’ll be great.”

TELEGRAPH FILE PHOTO Mayor Jim Donchess gives Gov. Chris Sununu a toy train at the 2017 Wild irish Breakfast, as part of a joke about the controversy over bringing commuter rail from Boston to Nashua. This year's 28th breakfast is Friday.

His mission is to step between all the blarney that will be flying around the dais for about two hours Friday morning, and share with those present his own personal story of what being a part of PLUS for more than a decade means to him.

The Wild Irish Breakfast, conceived as a way to put “fun” in “fundraiser” for folks interested in supporting the PLUS Company and its myriad programs, has a history of pulling a few surprises when it comes to the speaking lineup – a collection of folks who, regardless of their heritage, become “Irish Wits” for a couple of hours.

In charge of them all – or at least as in-charge of this group as can be expected – will be Chris Williams, who returns his second year as Blarney Master, the honorary title given the person who would otherwise be known simply as the master of ceremonies.

See accompanying information box for details on times and how to purchase tickets.

As the event draws nearer, PLUS representatives are still working on getting confirmation from a couple of invitees from the world of politics, the pool from which many Irish Wits have been chosen over the years.

I’ve been told one of them is a female whose name is recognizable nationally, but not quite a household name. We won’t know if she will be there until the placecards are printed.

We do know that Mayor Jim Donchess and Gov. Chris Sununu will be there, as will U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld also has a seat at the head table with his name on it. That he’s tossed his hat into the proverbial ring to challenge a sitting president – rather, an individual who currently holds that office and will presumably seek reelection, depending on his ability to stave off impeachment or indictment – ought to be good for a few jokes.

No matter how good or groan-worthy the jokes turn out to be, one can always count on the Wild Irish Breakfast for an annual two-hour respite from deep-seated political feuds and the often cruel, always grueling world of office-seeking and the anything-goes one-upmanship that defines the art of the business deal.

The Wild Irish Breakfast we know today grew out of an informal discussion between two men who sought to answer the question, “What can we do to raise some money to keep our programs that our regular funding doesn’t cover?”

The men – former mayor and longtime governor’s councilor Bernie Streeter and noted local developer Michael Monks – were chatting following a PLUS Company board meeting when the idea popped up.

Monks, a Boston native quite familiar with the Hub’s raucous St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, suggested a Boston-type celebration might just catch on here in Greater Nashua.

The ensuing discussion might be called a textbook example of political bipartisanship: a Massachusetts Democrat (Monks) and a New Hampshire Republican (Streeter) reaching across the proverbial aisle to create a forum for partisan pols to exchange a few good-natured jabs and toss a couple sharpened barbs back and forth.

As for Friday morning’s non-political segment, expect Hayward, the 10-year PLUS Company client, to express his gratitude for the assistance and support of everyone at the agency.

“The very best thing … was the first thing the staff did for me – they helped me clean my house,” Hayward said without hesitation.

He has since made the move to independent living, and currently has an apartment in one of downtown Nashua’s newer multi-unit buildings.

For more than six years an employee of a Bedford cafe, Hayward now works as a laundry attendant at an extended-stay hotel in Nashua.

He not only succeeds, but excells, thanks to the PLUS Company.

A staff member perodically “comes to check on me,” he said, but if he needs a little help between visits someone is there in short order.

“If I’m having a bad day … if I get nervous, they help me through it,” Hayward said, breaking once again into a broad smile.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Sundays in The Telegraph. He may be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or@Telegraph_DeanS.


WHAT: PLUS Company is hosting its 28th annual Wild Irish Breakfast

WHEN: Friday, March 15. Coffee at 7 a.m., breakfast at 7:30, program starts 7:45

WHERE: DoubleTree by Hilton (former Crowne Plaza), 2 Somerset Parkway, Nashua

COST: $85 per person. For tickets, and to purchase raffle tickets in advance, contact Lisa D’Errico at lerrico@pluscompany.org or 889-0652. Tickets, event history and more information available at www.wildirishbreakfast.org