When Richard Mariello of Old Orchard Beach deployed to Afghanistan, his wife, Lynn, and their four children had an Easter Seals care coordinator behind them every step of the way.

“Here in Maine there isn’t a whole lot of support for military families,” Lynn Mariello said. “But our care coordinator was my guide beside me.”

When Richard’s military pay was delayed, Lynn received gift cards for gas and food. When a child struggled in school, the care coordinator set up a three-way Skype call so Richard could be part of the intervention. And when Richard returned from duty and struggled with the transition to civilian life, his care coordinator used his connections to get him an appointment at a VA Medical Center with less of a wait.

Now Richard Mariello is a national adult representative for Easter Seals, working to grow the organization’s support for veterans.

The pilot veterans support group within Easter Seals is run out of Easter Seals New Hampshire, which has cared for more than 2,000 veterans and been involved in 55 suicide interventions in the past five years.

Easter Seals Maine — officially a subsidiary of Easter Seals New Hampshire — aims to follow New Hampshire’s model. Incidentally, the new chairman of the board of Easter Seals Maine was on the New Hampshire board in the early 1990s and has been on the Maine board since 2008.

“After hearing the plight of just a few of our returning veterans and knowing that there are a thousand similar stories with a common theme, I knew we couldn’t grow our new Veterans Services Program here in Maine fast enough,” said new board chairman Dennis Brown. “I will be doing everything I can to make that happen.”

And that growth starts with fundraising.

The signature fundraising event for Easter Seals Maine, Toast on the Coast, brought in about $30,000, much of which came from sponsors, according to event coordinator Trace Salter. That’s about one-third more than last year, with a move from The Landing in Scarborough to the Ocean Gateway in Portland. All proceeds will benefit Maine families.



While growing to meet the needs of veterans, Easter Seals Maine is standing by its traditional services base: children and families with special needs. In fact, the board’s new executive director, Gail Wilkerson, has a teenage son with autism who participated in an Easter Seals program years ago.

“When a position opened up, I checked out the other services Easter Seals provides, and I had no idea,” Wilkerson said. “It was an education for me — and a happy one.”

Wilkerson’s office is near All Aboard Preschool, where Easter Seals Maine provides one-on-one support for children in preschool to age 5. “I see these kids walk by my door every day, and in their faces I see my son,” she said.

Mallory Emmertz of Raymond raves about the strides her son 3-year-old Landon has made at All Aboard Preschool. She says that when Landon enrolled in the Easter Seals facility at age 2, he wouldn’t eat solid foods and he “really wasn’t communicating at all.” Within a few months, he was eating. And now he uses sign language, makes eye contact, and has started to use his voice to speak.

“We teach the children how to learn,” said Lauren Kutch, a lead teacher at All Aboard Preschool. The teachers also work closely with parents; in fact, Emmertz said she met with her son’s teacher weekly for the first year.

Last September, 80 percent of the kindergarten-age children at All Aboard Preschool moved on to mainstream classrooms — a sign of the program’s success.



For Toast on the Coast, event coordinator Trace Salter envisioned a sophisticated, seaside location; tastings of the best wines from around the world and the best restaurants in Southern Maine; and plenty of room to mingle.

Participating restaurants included Sapporo, Nosh, Standard Baking Company, Kamasouptra, Flatbread Company, Vignola, Coffee by Design and East End Cupcakes.

“We’d rather eat small amounts and really good stuff,” said Alex Kemp of Cumberland. “So this is a treat.”

Entrance to the private tasting room cost $75 but included hors d’oeuvres from David’s, Dean’s Sweets, Plate and Soul Productions, Sea Glass and the Winey Baker. Not to mention the upscale wines.

“The wines are amazing, and it’s for such a worthy case,” said Sue Strout of Kennebunk. “We love to go to wine tastings.”

Large fabric sculptures of flowers, moon rays, crescents, and “dazzles,” hung from the rafters, courtesy of Transformit of Gorham.

“Their installations bring so much beauty to an event,” Salter said.

Artist Cynthia Thompson, founder of Transformit, pulls fabric over aluminum frames, creating shapes as elaborate as morning glories, and planning how the installation as a whole will transform a space. One of her biggest events was the Academy Awards, for which she hung fabric from the ceiling.

“Her pieces are amazing,” said Keith Citrine of Portland. “I organize events, and I’ve used her pieces for years.”

Other event sponsors included Bill Dodge Auto Group, Pro Search Inc., Bath Savings Institution, H&A Attorneys, Residence Inn Portland, Baker Newman Noyes, Fox 23, Infinity Federal Credit Union, Moody’s Collision Centers, Maine Veterans’ Homes, TruChoice Federal Credit Union, Portland Trading Company, Lisa Bossi graphic design, and CyberCopy printing.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]


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