Throughout the 40 years of the program, over 23,000 young Catholic and Protestant children travelled to the US for a summer holiday respite from the everyday violence and strife of their homeland. The program continues for the young adults in the intern program. The intern program is both cross community and cross border and gives them the opportunity to work together, beginning each summer with a week working together at Habitat for Humanity in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
A native of Rockchapel, County Cork, Denis emigrated to the United States in 1962. He joined the New York City Police Department in 1969. He served with the Tactical Patrol Force, Street Crime Unit, and the 28th Precinct Detective Squad, before joining the elite Bomb Squad in 1983. He retired in 2002 as a First Grade Detective after 33 years of dedicated service to the NYPD.
Denis was one of the founders of Project Children in 1975 and was also instrumental in founding the Greenwood Lake Gaelic Society, and serving as its first President, in the same year.
Today, Denis resides in Greenwood Lake, New York with his wife, the former Miriam O’Rourke, a native of County Leitrim. They have four children: Denis Jr., a partner with Deloitte and Touche, Maureen, a Lieutenant with Manhattan Detectives, Sean, also with the NYPD Bomb Squad, and Tara, a Court Officer in Manhattan. They have eight grandchildren, Tara-Lynne, Denise, Seana, Kaitlyn, Denis III, Lindsay, Sean, and Jake.
In 1987, Denis was awarded the Medal of Valor by the NYPD for the extremely dangerous task of diffusing a bomb. In the same year, Denis was honored with the Bene Merenti Award from his Holiness Pope John Paul II. He also received the Private Sector Initiative Commendation from President Ronald Reagan, as well as the Cuchulainn Award from the Sacred Heart Club of County Armagh. He was honored by the County Cork B.P.P. Association in March 1988 and was Irish Man of the Year in 1988 for the Emerald Golf Society. In November of 1989, he was awarded the People of the Year Award in Dublin, Ireland.
Cardinal John O’Connor awarded the Cardinal Cooke Right to Life to Denis in 1991. In 1993, Ireland’s President Mary Robinson presented him with the Irish Voice’s Community Person of the Year Award. He was also nominated for two consecutive years for the very prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for all his work for the children of Northern Ireland and was runner up to Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.
In March of 1994, Denis was chosen as one of the top 100 Irish Americans of the Year, receiving an award from the former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds. He was also a guest of President Clinton at the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House. In 1995 Denis received the Top Cop Award in Washington D.C. by Vice President Al Gore. In November of 1995, President Clinton asked Denis to join him on his historic trip to Northern Ireland. In that same year ABC News named him Person of the Week. The World of Hibernia considers him one of fifty “SuperIrish”. In 1996 the NYC Police Department Emerald Society honored Denis as Man of the Year. In 1996 he was named Grand Marshal of the Mid Hudson and 1999 Washington D.C. St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In 2000 he was honored by the Dublin Society and named Man of the Year by the NYPD Holy Name Society. He was awarded the McClancy Leadership Award from Msgr. McClancy Memorial High School. He received the Council’s 2011 Humanitarian Award from The Council of Irish Associations of Greater Bergen County, Inc.
Denis has received Honorary Doctorate degrees from Mount Saint Mary College and Holy Family University. In 2016 Denis received the title of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II. In 2017 at the NY State AOH Convention Denis received the Commodore John Barry medal. In 2017 he also received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad, presented to him personally by the President of Ireland Michael J. Higgins. In 2018, Denis received the Dr. Eoin McKiernan Award from the Irish American Cultural Institute and also received a presentation on behalf of the Washington Ireland Program from the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Vradkar. Taoiseach Vradkar was one of the first participants from the south of Ireland on the Washington Ireland Program. Most recently, Denis received the Ancient Order of Hibernians JFK National Award in Louisville, Kentucky.
A TIMELINE OF OUR HISTORY
After watching too many news accounts of violence in Northern Ireland, Patrick and Denis Mulcahy, members of the New York Police Department and Cork natives, reasoned that if Protestant and Catholic children could spend time together in an environment that was not toxic with war, they would be less likely as adults to hurl bombs at each other, and Project Children was born. That first summer, they brought six children, three Protestant and three Catholic, to spend the summer in New York State.
The Project Children Internship program is started, initially bringing 10 mature students each summer to the United States to work, live and volunteer. For more information, visit the Project Children Internship page.
After 40 years and seeing 23,000 children from Northern Ireland spend their summers with 1,500 host families across the United States, the Project Children Summer Program was brought to an end.
The Project Children Internship program continues and we proudly partnered with the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers, New York in running the Mulcahy Scholarship. For more information, visit the Mulchay Scholarship page.
As a child, I didn’t realize my experience with Project Children would change my life. I was just overwhelmed by the skyscrapers of New York City and open spaces of Greenwood Lake and amazed they didn’t have an army patrolling their streets.
Looking back now as an adult, I know that short time in upstate New York took the blinkers off and changed my view of the world. I saw people could live under the same roof in peace. My host family, Carol and Duke Hoffman, don’t share the same church; Duke is a Catholic, while Carol attends the Lutheran Church but that never mattered.
The experience with Project Children let me see a world beyond The Troubles; that there was a world outside Belfast and that has made all the difference in the world to me.
Project Children opened my eyes to the world. I didn't even know it at the time. What I know now is that all of the lessons I learned from being a part of Project Children are still with me today. I was born and brought up in Belfast and went to college in Bloomfield New Jersey. All-American student-athlete defines me better than any statistic or moniker that I would have had in Belfast.
My outlook on life comes from the care and support of the Project Children family, the Nelson family and my own family, who said that if an organization like Project Children existed, it could do nothing but good! Project Children has continued, year after year, to prove them right.
I owe everything to this organization - not just my beautiful family and friends, but my outlook on life and my ability to bring our children up as conscientious members of an all-inclusive society.
Project Children has enriched thousands of lives in Northern Ireland and the US, and my family will always be grateful that we were part of the multitude. It showed that individual actions can indeed light up the darkness and when multiplied, have a history-changing impact.