It’s a great life lesson: If you want to become involved with something and truly make a difference, it’s best to go directly to the source.

“I wanted to work with kids in the school setting and realized I better figure out what’s going on,” explained Ted Damon, founder and chairman of the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel. “I sat in on a freshman English class for a whole year. I read their books, participated in class discussion, and the kids tolerated me. Actually, it was an easy relationship. When they laughed, I laughed, when they cried, I cried…”

What sounds like a fascinating social experiment for a former executive from Greenwich, Conn., recently retired to Kennebunk, was actually the launchpad for a pivotal, community-driven foundation that has gone on to serve hundreds of schoolchildren, grades K through 12, since its inception in 2006.

“I found the kids much more interested in participating in activities rather than ‘learning’ about them,” Damon went on to say. “Engagement and activity was very clearly the way to go, and this lead to the formation of the foundation.”

At the foundation’s second annual Catch the Wave Celebration at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, which raised $9,500, administrators, teachers, parents and area business leaders raved about the positive impact it has had, both in the school system and within the community.

“It’s fantastic, not just for the funding they provide, which is in the six figures every year,” said Andrew Dolloff, superintendent of schools for RSU 21, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel, “but also for the energy they bring to the district for innovation and improvement in curriculum, instruction and programming. They make the whole school district look good.”

Julie Urban, a first-grade teacher at the Kennebunkport Consolidated School, praised the Education Foundation for providing her with an opportunity she might not have had otherwise.

“I was able to go to a conference this year called ‘Literacy For All’ in Rhode Island. It’s an awesome conference for teachers, and the foundation paid for a group of us in my school to attend.”

Emily Kahn of Kennebunk, who was joined by her husband Ben, and friends Alexander Peacock and Jen Peacock Lyons, voiced a similar sentiment.

“We all have kids in the school system and feel very fortunate to have an organization like this in our community,” she said. “These are some of the most incredibly committed people. I’m a working mom and that’s really important to me.”

Ann Stockbridge, president of the Education Foundation, understands the importance and value of community involvement. With grant initiatives focusing on things like STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), robotics, leadership camps, art initiatives and professional development, the community is a vital source of inspiration and opportunity.

“Community is heavily involved in the success of the foundation,” she explained. “We open it up to everyone. Some of the best programs have come from the community.”

The fundraiser, which featured live music by the Mousam River Rats, a live and silent auction, and true to its essence, free childcare, was abuzz with energy and excitement.

Amidst the music and revelry, partygoers Amy Johnson of Kennebunkport, Rose and David Hines of Kennebunk and Dr. Todd Kirn and his wife, Jennifer, also of Kennebunk, geared up for the live auction by waving their colorful surfboard auction paddles, readying themselves with that old mantra, “Bid high and bid often.”

With such genuine enthusiasm from so many, success seems guaranteed.

To learn more about the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel, visit www.educationfoundationka.org.

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

mlogan@maine.rr.com