The distinction of being the grand marshal or community honoree of the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade goes beyond a single event.

In addition to leading the march down Western Avenue on the South Side’s biggest day of the year, the grand marshal and honoree receive public recognition for the good work they do in serving others, which leads to increased awareness and financial support.

This year, the parade highlights two groups that lift the spirits: Honor Flight Chicago and Choose Kind. Considering the tears of joy and countless smiles that they have generated over the years, both deserve the honor of leading the parade at noon on Sunday, March 17.

Honor Flight Chicago was founded in 2008 and hosts military veterans for a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. The vets visit war memorials and museums, and many local residents have been saluted by Honor Flight, which begins its trips each April. Over 8,000 veterans have participated, all of them from World War II or the Korean War. This year, Vietnam War veterans are eligible.

The day starts at Midway Airport at 4 a.m. to prepare for departure to the nation’s capital and a full day of activities. When the vets return to Midway that evening, hundreds of well-wishers are waiting to welcome them home and show appreciation for their service.

Choose Kind was started by Kerry Lynch, of Beverly, after her oldest child, Mary Cate, was born in December 2011 with Apert syndrome, a rare craniofacial condition. Mary Cate’s story has become an inspiration to the community, and she and her mother have visited dozens of schools urging students to “choose kind.”

Mary Cate still has difficult days when strangers make innocent but hurtful remarks about her appearance, and her family has shed many tears. However, they remain strong, which is not easy. Their message—and resiliency—is an example that should always be emulated.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Honor Flight Chicago will have over 100 people in its contingent, and the Lynch Family will be joined by a dozen families who have children with craniofacial conditions.

Lynch wants those children—who might not receive the same support as Mary Cate has—to receive a rousing ovation, and sure ’n’ begorrah, they will.

More importantly, when parade day is over, continue to support these wonderful organizations.

For information, visit honorflightchicago.org or the Facebook page for “My Mary Cate.”