Too often children bear the emotional brunt of divorce’s slings and arrows. But on Thursday night more than 200 people gathered at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth to raise more than $80,000 for the nonprofit Kids First Center, which offers statewide programs to help children, parents and stepparents navigate the transitions of divorce and separation in a healthy way.

“I like to say we’re not pro-moms, we’re not pro-dads, we’re pro-kids,” executive director Peg Libby told me.

The party also unveiled the organization’s new logo created by volunteer Kevin Kayne, who is a graphic designer. The new logo includes the tagline: “It’s your divorce. Not theirs.”

“It’s our major fundraiser and it’s a big part of our annual budget,” Kimberly Kump, who chaired this year’s event committee, told me. “It’s also a community event.”

Board member Al Barthelman explained to me that the center’s programs for adults help them understand that “co-parenting is like a business relationship. You need to learn to work in a business-like way.”

Every year there are 7,000 divorces filed in Maine and last year the center helped 3,500 families through the process.

Board chair Liz Stout, who is a family law attorney with Givertz, Scheffee & Lavoie, frequently refers her clients to the center.

“I’ve yet to see someone who says it wasn’t a good idea to go (to the workshops or support groups),” Stout said.

Advisory Council member Cush Anthony, a retired attorney, told me that in the mid-1970s when he went through a divorce he had to hunt down and cobble together resources to help his children through the transition. As a result, he ended up being one of the organization’s first program presenters.

Kids First was officially founded in 1998, through the combined efforts of Resources for Divorced Families and the Junior League of Portland.

Libby explained that “the program existed before the center opened.”

Anthony said the organization’s name comes from the fact that “people going through divorce can forget to put the kids first.”

Fellow Advisory Council member and attorney Phyllis Givertz praised Anthony’s role in helping the organization, as well as his influence on the process of divorce in Maine.

“Cush is the father of mediation in Maine,” Givertz told me. “And mediation is something that changed the face of advesarial divorce in Maine.

In addition to dancing to the swing music of Big Chief, the party served up passion fruit bellinis and red grapefruit martinis. In place of a sit down dinner, the event featured heavy hors d’oeuvres that could be eaten on the go. The centerpiece was a risotto bar, with toppings that included tomato gelee, mushrooms and peas and Maine shrimp. Partygoers piled the risotto and toppings into martini glasses.

Guests enjoyed these refreshments during a cocktail reception with an extensive array of silent auction items on the cover deck. Once the last silent auction table closed, we all made our way inside to watch a video created by board member Bob Stein. Then event emcee and WCSH-6 Sports Director Lee Goldberg introduced Tom Saturley, president of Tranzon Auction Properties, who took us into the live auction.

The auction show stealer was a 16-week-old golden retriever puppy named Gracie, who captivated the crowd with her cuteness and led to a fierce bidding war.

However, funny story about Gracie. Turns out board member Meg Wilson wanted to do something unusual for the auction, so she bought Gracie and proceeded to train her. But, along the way she and her family fell head over heels for this lovable pup.

So when it came time for the auction, her husband, Dr. Jim Wilson, was under strict orders to be the highest bidder (or face some very unhappy children at home). A mere $1,500 later, Dr. Wilson secured Gracie’s place in their home.

A private lunch for two with Sen. Olympia Snowe garnered the same gavel price. But the highest bids came for a set of four seats to a Red Sox vs. Yankees game. Those tickets ultimately fetched $1,900.

The motivation for the crowd’s generosity was clear.

As Saturley told us: “This community of ours we call home is only as solid as the children we bring up.”

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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