He has given those children-Protestants and Catholics-a
much-needed break from the grim politics of their own
country and an extraordinary chance to play together.
He hasn't done it alone, and he will be the first to
tell you. In fact, if you try to praise Denis, he will
quickly start praising Project Children host families,
area co-ordinators, fund-raising volunteers, and benefactors.
Denis considers himself simply one of the many. But
Denis is truly the heart and soul of Project Children.
He started it in 1975, along with his brother Pat. They
both had grown up in County Cork, Ireland, and emigrated
to New York, where they joined the New York Police Department.
Denis is still with the force; he's a bomb squad detective.
Pat retired early because of injury and returned to
In 1975, Northern Ireland was a boiling pot of political
violence. Armed soldiers, rolling tanks, and surveillance
cameras were everywhere, trying to keep the lid on.
People were dying and children were growing up scared.
Protestant and Catholic families were insulating themselves
against each other-fleeing integrated neighbourhoods
in search of segregated enclaves. Denis and Pat were
heartsick. They decided to do something to help the
children. That summer they brought six kids from Northern
Ireland-three Protestants and three Catholics-to Greenwood
Lake, New York, where they lived. The idea was twofold.
Most importantly they wanted to get the kids away from
the violence and the paramilitaries who work double
time recruiting kids during school breaks. Denis and
Pat also wanted to show the Protestant and Catholic
kids that they could live together and actually like