When Peter and Catherine O’Heagen came to America a little more than 200 years ago, little did they know their descendants would have no trouble at all filling a hay wagon to the brim. And that fact was evident last year when many Hagens (their original Irish name was Americanized many years ago) decided to participate in Rhinelander’s first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade.
And it will be no different this year. In fact, there will be a special “wee leprechaun” helping the Hagens celebrate their heritage in the parade come this Saturday, and her presence on the float will mean a lot to this close-knit clan.
Last year at this time, little 5-year-old Madeline McLaughlin was diagnosed with leukemia and she was just starting a two-year treatment protocol for her cancer. “She was a very sick little girl,” said Jackie McLaughlin, Maddie’s mom. “In fact, at one point we thought we might lose her.”
Realizing your child has such a devastating disease is horrific enough, but the McLaughlins were just settling in to the Northwoods of Wisconsin after moving here from Milwaukee. Jackie, who works as a veterinary management consultant and Maddie’s dad Brian, who is a musician, were happy to have made the move, but like any family in a new area, they were just starting to make friends. Luckily for them, one of those friends was Jim Hagen.
Jim convinced his relatives to help raise money at the parade to defray the costs of Maddie’s expensive treatments. “We were really happy to be able to do this,” said Paul Hagen, Jim’s brother. “We really wanted to help this little girl.”
So during the parade and the subsequent pub crawl afterwards, the family collected a little more than $3,000. “You have no idea how much this money helped us out,” said Jackie. “And knowing these people stepped forward to do this for us was unbelievable. It really made us feel part of the community.”
Today Maddie is still undergoing treatments, but her outlook is good. “She has oral chemo therapy and she still has to have spinal taps and other procedures,” said Jackie. “We have another year to go with her treatments, but the doctors tell us she has a 95 percent survival rate and that makes us very hopeful.”
And so with Maddie on the mend, the Hagens decided to focus their fundraising efforts this year on another cause that is dear to their hearts-the Oneida County Humane Society. In fact, almost every Hagen has at one time or another adopted or rescued a pet. “We all love animals very much,” said Anne Vanney, a former Hagen. “Almost everyone in this large family has a dog, cat or a horse. I don’t know if that’s an inherited trait or just being Irish.”
Many of the Hagen pets will be participating in the parade this year, bringing awareness to the cause of homeless animals. The entire family is grateful to Norma Johnson, who runs Employment Options on Stevens Street in Rhinelander. Anne and her sister, Grace Hagen, work there and Norma lets the family construct their float on her property and use her office space to prepare for the parade. After these festivities, the family makes a stop at Patty Deau’s downtown and then they will meet at the Claridge Motor Inn for an old-fashioned Irish potluck featuring Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage and other goodies.
While the entire Hagen family is excited about getting together to celebrate their Irish heritage, they are especially happy the McLaughlins will be joining them this year and they have dubbed Maddie an honorary Hagen. She will even be wearing a little leprechaun outfit to show her Irish spirit. “We’re just happy to be able help our community out,” said Paul. “That’s what being Irish, and a Hagen, is all about.”