Paul Drum has become a familiar face in the Greenport community — whether he is lending a hand at his family’s restaurant, representing his own nonprofit or earning honorary titles such as Southold Police Chief for the Day or Suffolk County Executive for the Day. His mom, Sharon Sailor, said her son has “his foot in every pond.” 

Even with Down syndrome, the 39-year-old does not let his limitations get in the way of accomplishing his goals, which is why the North Fork Chamber of Commerce has chosen Mr. Drum as grand marshal of the 2024 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 

“He does more with disabilities than most people without disabilities,” Ms. Sailor said. “He’s very excited and happy that he will be able to shine a light on the Paul Drum Life Experience Project.” 

The 18th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, hosted jointly by the North Fork Chamber of Commerce and the Cutchogue Fire Department, kicks off Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m. on Main Road in Cutchogue. Joe Corso, a past chamber president, organizes the parade each year. 

The title of grand marshal typically highlights a person who plays an important role in the community, said chamber president Judy McCleery. 

In past parades, however, the honor has usually gone to a representative of a business organization, such as last year’s grand marshal Karen McLaughlin, longtime director of the Southold Town Senior Center who retired after 32 years. 

To change things up this year, Ms. McCleery said she nominated Mr. Drum and his eponymous nonprofit, which offers free summer classes for children ages 7 through 12 in Greenport. 

“He is an inspiration to the many people who know him,” said Ms. McCleery. “He just has this real zest for life, and it comes through in everything he does.” 

Ms. Sailor — owner of Front Street Station restaurant in Greenport — and Arlene Klein founded the Paul Drum Life Experience Project several years ago, which started out as a children’s exploratory program where kids learned about subject matters they weren’t exposed to daily. 

As a nod to Greenport’s maritime history, the Paul Drum Nautical Education Program allowed children to learn about various topics, such as fish biology, how to row a boat, celestial navigation and more, from experts in each field. 

During the 2023 summer season, the Paul Drum Life Experience Project offered classes about beekeeping, ice cream making, double Dutch jump rope and ham radio operation.“It’s helped bring children who are shy out of their shell a little bit and helped them start to feel more comfortable in the world,” Ms. McCleery said. “It’s a chance for kids to explore a part of their world they might not explore.” 

As the nonprofit expanded, the Paul Drum Life Experience Project hosted more community “fun”raisers, including the Pirate and Mermaid Breakfast held during the Maritime Festival and the annual Southold Police Kids’ Fun Fest. 

With summer just a few months away, Ms. McCleery said her hope in making Mr. Drum this year’s grand marshal is to bring attention to the Paul Drum Life Experience Project. 

Ms. Sailor said her team plans to hand out brochures to inform parade attendees about the program and its community initiatives. 

“We’re just a group of girls, no salary or anything like that, putting together these programs and doing the fundraising, so it’s harder than your bigger organizations to get the word out,” Ms. Sailor said. “This will be great for us to hopefully bring us to the forefront and [get some] donations.” 

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