By Jennie Acklin

Bob McCarthy is well-known for his community fundraising efforts, hosting several annual events including Irish Christmas and the Americana Folk Art Festival, which raise for the Ellicottville Rotary Club and individuals in need.

McCarthy recently announced a new fundraiser, Celtic Thunder – A Night of Irish Music and Dance, to help a local writer Katie Benatovich, who is working on a series of books to help children battling cancer. The tagline “Help the Children” is fitting, as all who know McCarthy know he has a soft spot in his heart for helping children.

Benatovich wrote her first book, “Noura’s Garden,” in 2009 while living with her husband and two children in Abu Dhabi. She had assisted in the launch the new Education UK brand throughout the Arabian Gulf region and taught English in the French school. Children at the school spoke two or three languages as the norm, but they lacked the reading and support materials to develop accuracy and fluency.

As a result, a series of tri-lingual books with a unique combination of special icons and color codes was born. The first book was supported by the local education authority, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, as part of their summer reading program. One year later, six of the planned 20 Noura books were being read in public and private schools all over the United Arab Emirates.

Benatovich feels fortunate to be able to restart her writing career here in the U.S. after first caring full time for and then dealing with the loss of her husband to cancer.

She and her family had visited Ellicottville every summer for the past 13 years. Trips were always combined with visiting her husband’s family in Hamburg, and over those years, she developed many close friends here.

“We were home here in Ellicottville,” said Benatovich, who now makes Ellicottville her home.

Benatovich wanted to continue with her book projects, but knew she would have to start over without a publisher. Enter Bob McCarthy and the Rotary Club.

“Everybody has a book inside of them. I just want to help people tell their stories,” said Benatovich.

With the help of Kelly Wakely and Weed Ross Insurance, Laura Flannigan at the Ellicottville Memorial Library, and Greg Cappelli and the Rotary Club, Benatovich began working on an idea to develop a new series of books with the proceeds to be donated to Camp Good Days, a nonprofit that provides free summer camps and activities throughout the year to help families who have children and other family members with cancer.

The Camp Good Days and Special Times team have the ability to provide real understanding to the whole family and the opportunities to laugh again, have fun and build courage. Laughter definitely helped Benatovich, her son and daughter to take the necessary daily steps. She hopes that by writing this book more families can know about Camp Good Days and Special Times and benefit from their services and support.

Benatovich believes that reading is everything, especially for children. She also believes that the gift of sharing is an obligation and wants to use the gifts she has to give back to her community and to anyone who has been touched by cancer.

The Celtic Thunder fundraiser proceeds will help Benatovich publish her first book in the U.S. The evening will be filled with typical McCarthy-style entertainment with classic Irish folk band The Leftovers, wine provided by E-Ville Spirits, beef on weck from Dom’s Butcher Block, and beer supplied by EBC. Traditional Irish potatoes will be on the menu, and Katy’s Cafe & Catering is serving desserts. Weed Ross Insurance and many others will also be providing additional support.

Tickets are going fast, but are still available for a $40 donation. A limited number of “Gold “ tickets are available for those individuals wishing to do a little bit more to help the cause, at $100 each. Please call (716) 699-8758 for details and tickets.

According to Bob McCarthy, “Our amazing community has spoken for half of the tickets, with over 100 being purchased already. Ellicottville is truly amazing.”

The event takes place March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Ellicottville Town Center’s Rotary Auditorium. As with all of McCarthy’s fundraisers, you won’t want to miss this one!