Perhaps Harold Crabill summed up the importance of Rippleffect’s Mid-Winter Gala best.

“What started out servicing kids who wouldn’t have outdoor experiences otherwise has now expanded to reach kids from all socio-economic backgrounds, and brings them together where they gain an appreciation for each other and the natural environment that surrounds us here in Maine.”

Crabill, a newly elected Rippleffect board member who also works for Merrill Lynch here in Portland, was joined by Donald Tuski, president of Maine College of Art and his wife Louise, in lending support for this remarkable program that promotes leadership and personal development for children ages eight to 18 through outdoor adventure and community service.

And they were in great company. Nearly 200 people came out to Space Gallery in Portland on Thursday to bid on live auction items that included everything from two coveted TD Bank Beach to Beacon entries to Red Sox vs. Yankee tickets located 11 rows behind the Sox bullpen, and kick up their heels to the sounds of Beatles cover band The Guv’nors.

Revelers Tom and Debrah Yale of Yale Cordage embraced the “British Invasion” vibe of the evening by turning out in full regalia — Tom in his John Lennon glasses and mop-top wig and Debrah, a Rippleffect board member, in a sequined Union Jack mini.

While talk turned to things like Eskimo rolls, zip lines and the precious benefits of kayaking in Casco Bay and camping on Cow Island, the organization’s 26-acre oasis that boasts a climbing tower, a solar-powered kitchen and organic garden, conversations never seemed to strayed far from the true essence of the mission of Rippleffect and its impact on kids in the greater Portland area.

“We have ropes courses and training opportunities,” explained Kailee Mullen, a member of the Outreach Committee who was there with fellow member Peter Fritsche, “but really, it’s about learning self-reliance, building confidence, fostering leadership and making a connection to their environment.”

Friend and fellow supporter Jake Acker of CIEE chimed in matter-of-factly, “It’s replacing iPads with paddles…”

“Maine has a lot of challenges moving forward,” explained Anna Marie Klein Christie, Rippleffect’s executive director, “and the kids going through our program are better equipped to meet the extraordinary challenges we face.”

Now in its 13th year, with much to celebrate and much to look forward to, the evening’s festivities were paused for a few moments for a video presentation and a moving tribute to outgoing board president Cyrus Hagge. Lauded as Rippleffect’s “greatest advocate,” that sentiment was confirmed as a collage of smiling kids delivered their own special, “Thanks, Cyrus!” and cheers erupted from the audience.

“It’s been a remarkable run and we’ve just gotten started,” Hagge said from the stage. “We’re changing lives and we’ve got a great future.”

“We want to ensure that every child, regardless of ability to pay, has the opportunity to participate,” said Katie Fulham Harris, board vice president. “We have the opportunity in the next few years to grow beyond Portland, to make sure all Maine kids can benefit from the Rippleffect experience.”

It’s hard to put a price on an effort to provide opportunities so intrinsically valuable to young people from all walks of life here in Maine, yet despite the obvious challenges, Rippleffect has persevered.

“It’s life-changing and it’s fun,” said Harris. “It’s about growth, learning, adventure… you roll those up and we’re creating the next generation of leaders for Maine.”

For more information about Rippleffect and its 2013 youth and community programs, please call 791-7870 or visit www.rippleffect.net.

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

mloga[email protected]