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Irish fest, soda bread contest set for March 8 in New Lenox

Updated: March 11, 2014 6:10AM



When Julie Trafton and Karen Peck started hosting an annual Irish fest and soda bread contest at Charleston’s Bar & Grill in New Lenox, the motivation was personal and not just a desire to celebrate their heritage.

The sisters are supporting the fight against brain tumors, in honor of their mother, Lynn Bennett, who died of brain cancer in 2009.

“(Our mother) was always about doing things for other people,” Peck said. “She really inspired us to give back to others.”

This year’s fest, the seventh annual, is March 8 at the pub, 2101 Calistoga Drive. Soda bread drop-off is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a clown, face painting and kids games from noon to 3 p.m., and Irish step dancers and bagpipers will perform at 2:30 p.m. There also will be raffles and other prizes.

Soda bread contest entrants must be 21 and must be present to win. The winners are to be announced at 4 p.m.

Fest admission is $1 per person, or $5 per family. Proceeds will benefit brain tumor patients, in memory of Bennett, Peck said.

When Bennett was diagnosed in 2007, she was given six months to a year to live. During that time, she began a gratitude journal and used the time during MRI treatments to pray for others with cancer, especially children.

Peck remembers her mom often saying there was always someone fighting a bigger battle, and that is for whom Bennett prayed.

Trafton, who owns Charleston’s, and Peck have raised about $35,000 for different cancer-related programs, Peck said. Last year, they gave nearly $7,000 to Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute, where Bennett was treated. The year before, funds were given to Lurie Children’s Hospital. This year, funds are earmarked for the Pediatric Brain and Spinal Cord Tumor Center at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.

Bennett loved to bake, often winning soda bread contests. She once won a trip to Ireland from the now-closed Oak Lawn bar, Reilly’s Daughter.

The soda bread contest at Charleston’s continues Bennett’s tradition. The winner will receive $500 cash and a trophy. Second- and third-place finishers will receive Charleston’s gift cards and trophies.



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