‘If you are going to effect change in a child, you’ve got to effect change in the family,” said Carl Pendleton, president and CEO of Sweetser, amidst an energetic crowd of party-goers gathered at the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks for the organization’s 21st annual Sold on Kids auction and dinner.

“We started as an orphanage back in 1828,” he said, explaining Sweetser’s heritage as one of the oldest health care organizations in the state. “Now, we’re a full-spectrum mental health agency, serving those from birth to seniors.”

Judging by the throngs of people who turned out to show their support for Sweetser and the services it provides to children and families in need, its mission enjoys heartfelt support.

“It’s for the children,” said Thomas Arnold of Saco. “I really believe in Sweetser,” agreed his wife Lisa Arnold, who donated some photographs to the evening’s silent auction. “They offer wonderful services for the kids.”

With over 330 guests in attendance, people were spilling into the corridors of the Marriott, perusing more than 170 silent auction items and cheerfully raising their glasses to an organization whose purpose is both simple and profound: helping people create promising futures.

“We have a lot of supporters and a lot of friends,” explained Mary Turgeon, an architect and Sweetser board chair. “This is one of our largest fundraisers, and we raise quite a bit of money for our programs here tonight.”

Chessell McGee enjoyed the festive spirit of the evening with her pals Tina Keene and Jaime Clark. “I’m an avid supporter of Sweetser and have been for many years,” McGee said.

“I believe 110 percent in the Sweetser mission,” said Bob Lobis, a retired child psychiatrist from Bath who also is a board member. “I think Sweetser is where the buck stops for seriously impaired kids, and their track record for helping these kids to thrive is outstanding. They are an amazing organization and I feel privileged to be on the board.”

The cocktail reception and silent auction merged into the expansive ballroom for a sit-down dinner and live auction, with master of ceremonies Lee Goldberg of WCSH 6 at the helm. A banner with the words, “Honoring 185 Years of Hope” set the tone, and at the end of the night, over $75,000 was raised.

Yet perhaps the most fitting tribute of the evening came from one of the agency’s own.

“When we get ready to come out to this event, the kids wonder, ‘Do people really care about us?’ ” said Teena Zimmerman, a psychologist at Sweetser. “These are kids that have been abandoned, lost, abused and they rebuild their lives and become productive citizens. This changes kids lives the money that is raised here tonight will have immediate results. There aren’t many things you can say that about.”

For more information about Sweetser, please visit sweetser.org.

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

mlogan@maine.rr.com