Former Inverness pastor, Cubs great Andre Dawson teaming up for Haiti fundraiser

  • The Rev. Medard Laz, shown here in 2018 at the Ecole Nationale de la Sainte Famille de Julie in the Alpha Village community in Gressier, Haiti, is the pastor emeritus at Holy Family Parish in Inverness.

    The Rev. Medard Laz, shown here in 2018 at the Ecole Nationale de la Sainte Famille de Julie in the Alpha Village community in Gressier, Haiti, is the pastor emeritus at Holy Family Parish in Inverness. Courtesy of Medard Laz

  • The Rev. Medard Laz is pictured here in 2018 at the Ecole Nationale de la Sainte Famille de Julie in the Alpha Village community in Gressier, Haiti. The nonprofit Food for the Poor built the village after the destruction and displacement of families caused by an earthquake in 2010.

    The Rev. Medard Laz is pictured here in 2018 at the Ecole Nationale de la Sainte Famille de Julie in the Alpha Village community in Gressier, Haiti. The nonprofit Food for the Poor built the village after the destruction and displacement of families caused by an earthquake in 2010. Courtesy of Medard Laz

  • Andre Dawson

    Andre Dawson

 
 
Updated 9/1/2021 6:20 AM

For the past 16 years, the Rev. Medard Laz, founding pastor of Holy Family Parish in Inverness, has organized an annual fundraiser to help build homes, schools and hospital additions in Haiti.

The fundraisers, in partnership with the nonprofit Food for the Poor, took place in person throughout the Northwest suburbs until the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's fundraiser will take place virtually Sept. 16 and will feature a conversation with Andre "The Hawk" Dawson, the former Cub and Hall of Famer.

 

The virtual fundraiser will pay for the construction of a new school, Ecole National ti Pousseline, in Roseaux, Haiti, an area that suffered much destruction after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on Aug. 14, Laz said.

Laz, 77, has been living in Florida for about 15 years but visits the Chicago area often for things like weddings, funerals and other events at Holy Family Parish, where he is pastor emeritus, and at parishes where he served in Chicago and Northbrook.

The fundraisers for projects in Haiti started after he met with Florette and Andrew Sokulski, an Inverness couple who wanted to honor the memory of their daughter, who died at a young age, Laz said.

"I had gone down to Haiti and I saw the needs," Laz said. "I had dinner with them (the Sokulskis) and together we came up with, 'Let's do a project every year.'"

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The fundraisers have a goal of $100,000, and Holy Family Parish has been a major supporter over the years, Laz said. The Sokulskis were actively involved until they took a step back recently, Laz said.

The COVID-19 pandemic dictated the need for a virtual fundraiser last year, and once again this year.

Laz has visited Haiti multiple times over the years. The last time was in 2018, before the country's civil unrest made it too unsafe to visit, he said.

Haiti is an "absolutely beautiful country" whose "faith-filled people" have had to deal with a fraught colonial past, an inept government and calamity after calamity: hurricanes, earthquakes and the slaughter of pigs following a swine flu outbreak in the late 1970s, Laz said.

"They were still recovering from the 2016 Hurricane Matthew when this doggone thing (earthquake) hit on Aug. 14," he said. "The people in Haiti -- to survive all this heartache they had with natural disasters is just remarkable."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Sept. 16 fundraiser will feature a recorded conversation that Laz had with Dawson last month.

Dawson spent the majority of his career with the Montreal Expos. He signed with the Cubs in 1987 and later played for the Boston Red Sox and the Florida Marlins. He was only the second player in baseball history to reach 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases. He was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010. Today, Dawson operates a funeral home in Miami.

"Not too many sports figures leave the field and become a funeral home director. I thought that was really interesting," Laz said.

"We spent the majority of the interview talking about his life now as a funeral director. We got into that in terms of some of the parallels in terms of being with the Chicago Cubs and being a Major League player, and what the parallel is with his life today."

Food for the Poor's goal of building a school in Roseaux was established months before the Aug. 14 earthquake, Laz said.

"I pressed (the nonprofit) and said, 'With all the homes being destroyed, are you sure you are going to go ahead with this? They said, 'Oh, yes. We will build the school.'"

"It will be a sign of hope, I hope."

To register for the fundraiser, visit foodforthepoor.org/buildingdreams. Registration is free, and donations are welcome, Laz said.

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