Kelly A. Hughes (finance manager; Davenport, IA)
Where do I begin? First and foremost, a huge thank you to RSM for starting a program that enables employees to pursue a passion that allows one to fulfill a dream and make a positive impact, and THANK YOU for believing in my passion! I am honored, excited and humbled that, with your help, I was able to keep my promise to my son and attend his football game in Ireland. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank every employee who congratulated me, offered me advice or answered my never-ending inquiries about traveling abroad, it truly meant the world to me. Below are some of the highlights of our Ireland adventure:
Day 1- Our trip to Ireland began by meeting the Augustana football team, coaches, family and friends at Chicago O’Hare airport. I was amazed that our group was 120 strong. With so many familiar faces from Augustana family weekends, tailgating and football games, excitement filled me. In no time, we were boarding and on our way to Ireland. Upon arriving in Dublin, we were greeted by our tour guides Giancarlo and Joanne who immediately shuttled us to our buses to begin our adventure. First stop, the authentic Irish town of Athlone for a little exploration. We were able to visit Sean’s Bar, Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to AD 900, and were able to hear the origination of the building from the bar’s current owner. We then boarded our buses and headed to the Clonmacnoise Monastery and then back to the hotel in Galway for a good night’s rest.
Day 2- Quite the bus adventure to the Cliffs of Moher. During our two-hour drive, the two tour buses carefully navigated Corkscrew Hill. Thankfully we arrived safely at the Cliffs of Moher. The beauty of Ireland was so abundant on this trip, truly remarkable and beyond words. While traveling alone during this portion of the trip, I was actually able to also tackle my fear of heights. Fear was not going to keep me from immersing myself in the beauty and making the climb to take the perfect picture of the Cliffs of Moher. Our evening was spent exploring Galway and spending some time with my son Connor.
Day 3- Early departure from Galway on our travels north to Belfast. Some of the most beautiful scenery was observed while traveling through the countryside to our next destination. We visited Trim Castle (film sight for Braveheart) and received a guided tour. We enjoyed fish-and-chips for lunch in the small town. We then arrived in Belfast around dinner time and shortly after my daughter Elizabeth arrived to join our group for the rest of the trip.
After unpacking in Belfast, the players and coaches proceeded to the football field to begin practice. While the parents, family and friends were at dinner ,the coaches posted a video of the Augustana football team practicing at the Harlequin Club field and I was so proud of what I saw. Although I was unable to include the video, I was able to take a picture the next day. Does anyone see anything familiar?
Day 4- Game Day has arrived. I was so honored and beaming with pride as Connor and his Augustana football teammates played a great American football game against the Belfast Trojans. Although Augustana defeated Belfast 65-0 it was a great day full of sportsmanship and camaraderie. Belfast hosted players and families after the game for dinner as well as a night out in downtown Belfast. Connor himself played an amazing game and was able to wear his regular season #67.
Day 5- Depart Belfast and visit the coastal town of Skerries on our way back to Dublin. What a beautiful town with a great lunch and gelato. My son’s great group of “O-Line” family. The pictures speak more than any words I could write. Then on to Dublin for a walking tour of the town and St Patrick’s Cathedral!
Day 6 and 7- Dublin tour of Croke Park, the Gaelic Athletic Association Hall of Fame, Guiness Storehouse, Trinity College/Book of Kells and St Stephens Green Park and lots of time exploring Dublin and shopping with my family.
And then it was time to say goodbye.
This trip definitely afforded me the opportunity to play hard and reward myself by trying something new, immersing myself in a different culture, exploring faraway worlds and beaming with pride watching my son play the game he loves, while keeping the promise I made when he began playing football. The added bonus on this trip: we got to spend time with the Augustana O-Line group, the family my son has become a part of in his short time at Augustana, and I earned a new nickname: Momma Big Ging (Connor being Big Ging(er)). This trip has absolutely made a lasting impression on my family and me. I can now say I have traveled abroad, experienced new things by myself and conquered a fear!