“Did you pack a bag?”

That’s the big question at the annual Maine Suitcase Party, where a couple of guests are picked at random to fly to New York City for an immediate weekend jaunt with whatever they happen to have with them.

“Arizona is the only other place in the country that has a party like this, and that’s where we got the idea,” said Jim Iacono of MAC Air Group, which has hosted the fundraiser for Camp Sunshine at a private hangar in South Portland all six years.

Six hundred tickets were sold to the Sept. 22 event, breaking the Suitcase Party record and raising almost $94,000 for Camp Sunshine. That’s enough to send 37 families to the Sebago Lake camp for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

“It’s such an awesome way to support the camp and everything they’re doing,” said Alicia Depatsy of Portland. She not only packed a bag but brought it in the hangar for easy access – just in case.

“Everyone pitches in and makes it a special event,” said Mike Katz, executive director of Camp Sunshine. He waved his hand around toward Circus Maine aerialists dangling from the rafters, Lady Red Claws dancers dressed as stewardesses and Migis Lodge staff volunteering as servers and bartenders.

“My father joined the Camp Sunshine board back when it first started,” said Jed Porta, general manager of Migis Lodge. “They’re just around the shore of the lake from us. And we understand the value of family time. It was just a natural fit.”

With these supporters and many other sponsors, a hangar becomes the most happening spot in Maine, alive with possibility, one Friday night each September.

“We come here every year because it’s fun,” said Shawn Dube of Auburn.

“And a couple of years ago we won the staycation in Freeport,” added Diane Nadeau of Saco. Of course, she said, they’d packed bags.

The winners of the jet-setting trip were Adam DeMerchant, who gave the trip to his sweetheart Brandy Egan and her friend Elaine Sweet, and Neil Suchecki, who brought his fiancé, Jane Apple. These winners of the drawing were joined by a few spontaneous and generous souls who bid on the remaining seats in the Hawker 1000.

Julie Kocian of Keller Williams Realty successfully bid on a seat two years ago. “It was amazing,” she said. “Even writing that check to Camp Sunshine and knowing how many families would be able to go to camp.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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