Joy. That’s the best way to describe it. This was a room filled with joy. Three open levels of people sipping martinis, nibbling fresh lobster from mini martini glasses and admiring original artwork by some of the most talented artists our fair state has to offer. Friends. Colleagues. Survivors. Toasting each other, catching up and showing their support.

The din of laughter mingled with the sounds of easy jazz at the third annual Martinis & Art fundraiser held at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute on Commercial Street in Portland, a jovial backdrop for a group of people gathered together to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Patient Navigator Program here in Maine.

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming emotionally, physically and financially,” explained Dr. Susan Miesfeldt, a medical oncologist and medical director of the Cancer Risk and Prevention Clinic at the Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute, and event founder of Martinis & Art. “Patient navigation is intended to provide a one-stop shop for patients, their families and caregivers for cancer information and local support services that will help them on their cancer journey.”

Mark Marchesi, who attended Martinis & Art with his wife, Michelle Bolduc, is an artist based in South Portland who believes firmly in supporting this effort.

“This is my second year donating artwork, and I really like this event,” Marchesi said. “It’s fun and it’s festive, and anything that has to do with supporting research or a patient’s life and care is so important. We’ve both seen it firsthand.”

Though the cause is indeed an imperative one, the tone of the evening was celebratory and upbeat. Several Maine artists donated a piece of original art, from sculpture and photography to pastels and oil, which were displayed for most of the evening. As the soiree kicked into high gear, guests were invited to drop a raffle ticket into a container next to the artwork they most admired, in the hopes their name would be drawn the winner. Co-hosts Kathleen Shannon of WCSH-TV Channel 6 and musician Jonathan Edwards were lively and animated as they drew the names of lucky winners with the audience cheering them along.

“Maine is wonderful because it is so inter-connected,” said Meredith Strang Burgess, who sits on the event committee and is herself a cancer survivor. “This is a cool thing. Twenty-four people will go home with an original piece of art, and this is serious art, created by at least three who are cancer survivors.”

Sally Loughridge is one of those artists. A cancer survivor who recently authored the book, “Rad Art: A Journey Through Radiation Treatment,” she offers a testament to the healing powers of the creative process.

“I’m calling it the restorative power of art,” she explained. “… how it can help you heal and help you stay steady emotionally. It sure helped me.”

“When people don’t have their essential needs met, it’s always a dance,” explained Donna Green, clinical manager at Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute who supervises the patient navigator here in Maine. “We can help where the clinical people can’t and offer support to the patients and their families. You really need a complement of both to get through the journey.”

Dr. Eric Larsen, medical director of Maine Medical Center’s Cancer Institute in Scarborough, offered a moving thank-you to the patient navigators in attendance, and to all the guests for their support before the raffle got under way.

“As an oncologist at Maine Medical Center, I can tell you firsthand your work makes a huge difference to those folks with cancer,” he said. “Mainers with cancer face huge challenges. Transportation and financial issues, navigating their way through complicated systems at a time when they are scared to death…Your support tonight helps directly the patient navigators, who help break down all of these barriers and walk that journey with them.”

As the guests streamed out into the chilly October evening, beaming with their new additions tucked under their arms, Susan Clifford of the American Cancer Society surveyed the scene, smiling.

“We are a miracle in progress …”

For more information about Martinis and Art, please visit

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

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