August 4, 2013

Society Notebook: "A Neon sign of' Hope


You have to be a strong supporter of an organization to invite 130 people to your home for a charitable fundraiser, as Sheri and Joe Boulos did. In fact, it was the third time the Spring Harbor Hospital annual benefit was held at their stunning seaside property in Falmouth.

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Spring Harbor board member Nancy Pond, her son, Mark St. John, one of the founders of It Takes a Community, and her husband, Kirk Pond.

Photos by Amy Paradysz

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Spring Harbor board member Lester Hodgdon and his wife Sidney Hodgdon, of Brunswick, and Tom Chadbourne, of Portland.

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"Your support tonight gives us a big -- maybe a neon -- sign of hope," said Sheri Boulos. She has been on the Spring Harbor board of trustees for 20 years and was on the first development committee.

The Signs of Hope benefit raised about $60,000 for the Spring Harbor Fund to serve the hospital's greatest needs: patient care and cutting-edge professional education. Spring Harbor, which treats patients in mental health crisis, doesn't turn anyone away for lack of insurance or funds. The facility provides about $6 million in charitable services each year.

"Spring Harbor saved my life," Dri Huber said. "They never gave up on me. As difficult as I was and how many times I was there, they never gave up on me."

Five years ago, then-teenagers Dri Huber and Linsey Falconer shared a room at Spring Harbor for just one night. A few years later they recognized each other at a National Alliance on Mental Illness event and soon became best friends.

"That bond was important," Huber said, explaining how crucial it is to have someone who cares about you and knows your daily struggle.

"It is a battle every day," Falconer said.

Guest speaker Randy Seaver of Biddeford concluded his personal remarks with a similar thought: "I have been fighting a disease for 40 years, and I'm still winning."

Thirty years ago, when he left Maine Medical Center after treatment for mental health crisis, he had nothing but 45 cents -- and hope. He heard voices and, at 19, was too violent to live with his mother.

Today, he has achieved the American dream, including a loving wife, funny children, satisfying work, and his own blog ( But he still struggles with depression, chain smoking and anxiously pacing his own driveway.

"To hear him be so open and honest about his experiences -- everyone was pretty much mesmerized," said Valerie Markgren, a communications specialist with Spring Harbor.

"Many, many people have been touched with issues in their families, and this organization deserves a great deal of support. Hospital finance is a challenge," said Spring Harbor board member Lester Hodgdon, who served as finance vice president at Midcoast Hospital before his retirement.

"Our hospital treats people with a lot of complex needs," said Spring Harbor CEO Dennis King. "And that takes a lot of resources."

"It's really challenging work under difficult circumstances," said Girard Robinson, Spring Harbor's chief medical officer. He said that these kinds of events are important not only to raise money but also for the staff to "know the community supports us."

And it does. In fact, the host committee for the Signs of Hope party hit a record with 76 members. More than half of the guests were in fact members of the host committee.

Guests included former hosts Kirk and Nancy Pond, strong proponents for early identification of mental health issues. In 2008, Nancy's son Mark St. John was on the committee that founded It Takes a Community, a forum working to combat the stigma of mental illness.

"We wanted positive community discussions about mental health," Nancy Pond said, explaining that she has another son with schizophrenia.

"I grew up as a caretaker of my brother, who was sick," said St. John, who is now a pharmacy student at University of New England. "I've learned a lot from Spring Harbor and seeing the direction of mental health treatment."

"The quality of psychiatric care is awfully important, and there's still more need," said board member Nancy Hasenfus, who is a doctor of internal medicine at Midcoast Hospital and is married to a psychiatrist. "The psychiatric system in Maine is better than in a lot of states, but it is still patchwork."

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


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Additional Photos

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Spring Harbor supporters Linsey Falconer and Dri Huber, guest speaker Randy Seaver, who writes a blog about mental illness, and board member Anne Pringle.

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Dennis King, CEO of Spring Harbor Hospital, and Girard Robinson, chief medical officer at Spring Harbor and chief of psychiatry at Maine Medical Center.


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