NEW YORK CTY, N.Y. — St. Patrick’s Day will be very special for Liam Picco, 15, the grandson of St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal Loretta Brennan Glucksman, as Liam rides up Fifth Avenue with his Grandmom, his good friend, Hansom Carriage Driver Stevie Hand and Samson, a black Percheron.
“Samson is my favorite horse. I like going on the carriage rides through Central Park and listening to Stevie’s stories,” said Liam who is managing epilepsy and spends time with Stevie Hand and other carriage drivers in an informal equine therapy.
“I’m excited to be in the parade this year because St. Patrick’s Day is my favorite holiday. It’s awesome that I get to spend the day with my Grandmom, too,” Liam said.
“Liam got into brushing the horses. He gives them carrots,” Hand said.
“My children and my grandchildren are my whole world,” Ms. Glucksman says. “One of the high points of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be being so close to Liam and sharing the joy with Stevie. He and the other Irish guys who work with the horses have been so good to Liam.”
Following in the tradition of Mary Higgins Clark, the 2011 Grand Marshal, and Maureen O’Hara, the 1998 Grand Marshal, Loretta Brennan Glucksman will lead the 257th New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, riding in a Hansom Cab. Because of Liam’s friendship with Hand, he has the honor of driving the cab, with Liam sitting proudly at his side.
Hand, from Dowth in County Meath, on the border with County Louth, first came to America on a student visa in 1986 and became a permanent resident in 1992. He started driving a hansom cab in 1994; tried his hand on Wall Street and then came back to the carriages when Wall Street went haywire in 2008.
“I like the bond that connects me to people,” Hand explains. “I get a buzz when people say the carriage ride ‘is the best thing that happened on my vacation.’ To be able to share in other people’s special moments is truly a blessing.”
Two years ago, Liam’s mother, Kate Picco, brought him out for a carriage ride.
“She knew someone that I knew. That’s a typical Irish thing,” Hand said, “And we all became friends.”
Liam and Stevie have shared many afternoon carriage rides together in Central Park, always enjoying each other’s company.
“I love having Liam as part of my life. I treat him as an equal. We’re all human and we all bring something to the table. Like all kids, he wants me to go faster. I tell him life goes fast enough.
“It’s all about the journey, not the destination.”
“Spending time with Liam has tought me the art of mindfulness. When Liam takes a carriage ride, Carpe Diem is definitely the buzz phrase. Nothing else matters for that hour apart from Liam’s interaction with his equine buddies,” Hand said.
Pulling Loretta’s carriage will be Samson, 22, “a good sturdy horse with a great disposition,” Hand said.
“It is an honor to be driving Loretta, who has given so much of her time and financial gifts for the people of Ireland and for Irish Americans. Her involvement with the island of Ireland has been a continuous series of acts of selflessness,” he added.
“The 32 counties of Ireland are on a much higher plateau due to her devotion to all things Irish, especially in the fields of education and bringing our two communities together in Northern Ireland,” Hand said.
“On St. Patrick’s Day, we think of those who came before. What they had to do to survive. I am very thankful for those who went before, who make my life in America so easy.”
Loretta, Liam, Stevie, Samson and the 257th New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade step off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, and proceed up Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street.
The parade is broadcast live on WNBC-TV 4 and livestreamed on nbcnewyork.com and nycstpatricksparade.org.
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