Each year, the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade paints the town green for a good cause. The parade committee has raised over $1 million over 32 years for local children’s charities thanks to fundraising events like the Shamrock Shuffle and Irish Road Bowling. At the forefront of the movement are the parade’s queen candidates, who act as point-of-contacts for donations.
“They are sometimes called the legs of our committee because without them we could not continue to move forward in our efforts to provide assistance to deserving organizations such as Lawrence Children’s Choir and Lawrence Youth Football,” said committee co-chair, Alicia Ruiz, in her coronation speech.
This year’s candidates were Jae Richardson, Lindsey Meyer, Michelle Beavers and McGrew Real Estate agent Emily Willis. Although all women demonstrated extraordinary acts of selflessness, there could be only one queen for the parade.
Based on her charitable contributions and assistance efforts, the committee chose Willis to wear the crown. Willis is proud to participate, because youth programs are near and dear to her heart. She believes it takes a village to raise a healthy child.
“I always refer to Lawrence as a big small town. Everyone is looking out for each other,” she said. “I wanted to do this because I wanted Jay, my daughter, to know that anybody can make an impact in the lives of others.”
But Jay isn’t the only person riding with Willis on Sunday. Amber Green is her designated co-queen, something that they are calling joint tenancy, which is a real estate term meaning shared property.
Having been born with hydrocephalus, Green has special needs, but that does not stop her from vivaciously exploring life.
“She’s the person, if she had a quote, it would be the word, Sure!” Willis said of Green’s willingness to try new things. “She’s one of the best friends that anyone could ever ask for.”
Green has had multiple major surgeries, including instances that she almost didn’t survive.
“I remember her mom called me and said, You need to come by and say goodbye to Amber,” Willis recalled. “That was one of the hardest things, because she was so involved in my life. This was before I had kids, so Amber was always with me.”
Green has undergone countless trials in her life, so when Willis won the title of queen at the coronation ceremony and saw the tears in her friend’s eyes, she invited her onstage and placed the crown on her head.
“I knew this meant something to me, but to see what it means to her, this was an opportunity of a lifetime, because she has not had that,” Willis explained. “We are joint tenants of the crown. Although if she asks for it, it’s all hers.”
Willis and Green will ride together in a horse-drawn carriage on Sunday— as long as former KU basketball player, Brady Morningstar, doesn’t show up.
“She says, If Brady shows up, are you going to get off the carriage to make room for him? I said yes I will,” Willis said. “We made a list of people and Mario Chalmers was also acceptable. I can get off the carriage for Mario.”
The Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade is on Sunday, March 17 at 1:30 PM in Downtown Lawrence. For more information about the parade committee, click HERE.