June 26, 2011

Society Notebook: A real home run

Hall of Famer Dwight Evans and other friends of the Cromwell Center for Disabilities raise $70,000 to support the nonprofit.

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Red Sox Hall of Famer Dwight Evans has witnessed phenomenal success, but he's also seen the trauma that can be inflicted by bullying and discrimination.

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Red Sox Hall of Famer Dwight Evans, second from left, with his wife, Susan Evans, Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness Board Chair Les Otten and Lisa Pierpont of Boston.

Photos by Avery Yale Kamila/Staff Writer

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Board member Rachel Williams-Clifford, Annie Brown of Cumberland, Peter Brown, a program director of STRIVE, and board member Terry Brown, who chaired the dinner committee and is not related to Annie and Peter.

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Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, 4:30 to 8 p.m., Southern Maine Community College, South Portland. Sample food and drink from the area's leading chefs and mixologists at a benefit for Preble Street Teen Center, Good Shepherd Food Bank, Cultivating Community and East End Kids Katering. $125. strength.org/portlandme.


Fourth Annual Dine On Auction, 5:30 p.m., Moulton Union, Bowdoin College, Brunswick. Enjoy a reception, dinner, music and a live auction in support of the Bowdoin International Music Festival. $125. www.bowdoinfestival.org.


At least two weeks in advance to Avery Yale Kamila, Maine Sunday Telegram, One City Center, Portland, ME 04101 or akamila@pressherald.com.

During Thursday night's Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness Dinner and Dance, Evans addressed the crowd of more than 230 guests at the Marriott Sable Oaks in South Portland and told us about his two adult sons who live with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors of the nerves. He talked about the cruel words and actions directed at his sons by both children and adults who lack sensitivity and compassion for people with differences.

But he also shared a story that caused all our hearts to swell.

He told us of the day his son Tim had a surgery (he's now had 40) to remove one of the tumors and had just awoken in the post-op room. Because the Red Sox had a game that evening, Evans needed to leave for the ball field.

"I kissed him on the forehead," Evans told us. "He said, 'Dad, can you do me a favor? Can you hit a home run tonight?' "

Evans agreed that he would, but when he turned to leave the hospital room his son asked for another favor: "Can you hit me two home runs tonight?"

Evans said he would try, but didn't make any promises.

"It didn't dawn on me until I hit that second home run that someone very special was looking over that situation," Evans told us.

That same special someone was likely smiling upon the fundraiser, since the party raised an estimated $70,000 to support the nonprofit's efforts to change attitudes about people who live with disabilities.

Moving talks like the one Evans delivered are a hallmark of this annual dinner.

"I came to this event last year and I was completely inspired," Terry Brown told me. Brown worked as a speechwriter for Maine businessman Les Otten during his recent gubernatorial bid and has since joined the organization's board and even chaired this year's event committee.

"The people in this organization are all wonderful people," Brown told me. "They're all so giving of their time and money."

The organization, which was founded in 2003 by Otten and Portland attorney Jamie Kaplan, runs interactive disability awareness programs for grades three through five.

"We're the program to call for training and education to prevent bullying," Executive Director Juliana L'Heureux told me. "I'm already getting calls for fall, and we're also getting calls from out of state schools."

The organization has provided training in 165 schools during the past three years.

"The Cromwell Center relies on grants for our school programs, and all our state and federal grants have been cut," L'Heureux told me. "We're going to be fine for next year. But this fundraiser is going to have to be even more important."

When I met Cromwell instructor Hilda Wiley during the silent auction, she told me about what she sees when working in the classroom with students.

"It gives kids a sense that disabilities are common and differences are good," Wiley told me. "They come away thinking, 'I'm not alone.' Starting the dialogue about disabilities can help potential bullies" realize they know many people with disabilities.

Susan Evans, Dwight Evans' wife, told me how impressed she is by the Cromwell Center's programs after she and her husband witnessed a class in action at the Portland YMCA.

"We went into the classroom and saw how the kids were interacting and the way they were thinking about these things," Susan Evans told me. "What the Cromwell Center does is so important. I wish more companies and schools would incorporate this into their programs. There are so many people who've been hurt by ignorance."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Karen Goldberg and her husband, Lee Goldberg, who is a sports anchor on WCSH-6.

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MaryBeth Lorenz of Freeport, Amy McGeachey-Bond of Cumberland and Heather Gale of Falmouth.


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