When Ilma Lopez decided to organize a fundraiser for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, she didn’t set out to ask only female chefs to participate.

“These women, I think they’re amazing,” she said. “They’re people who it’s a no-brainer for me to work with. I’m serious. It just so happens that they’re all female.”

Lopez and at least one of the other chefs have had family members hospitalized during the past year, an experience that opened their eyes to the importance of having quality healthcare in the community, and resources for families trying to cope with serious illness or injury. In Lopez’s case, it was her husband and business partner Damian Sansonetti.

“You’re just like what the heck happened? And everything stopped,” she said. “You keep doing your day to day, but you don’t realize how hard it is until you’re the person at 3 a.m. in the hallway, waiting for someone to tell you what’s going on.”

In Krista Desjarlais’ case, it was her daughter Cortland, who had an unexpected seizure and was diagnosed with benign partial epilepsy, a condition that is expected to last into her teenage years. Desjarlais and her husband, Erik, spent three months visiting doctors and hospitals.

“We saw so many children who were far worse off than Cortland,” Desjarlais said. “You realize how important funding is.”


Lopez’s daughter Isabella was also part of the inspiration for choosing the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital to be the recipient of the Fabulous Femmes fundraiser. Lopez, a native of Venezuela, can’t show her daughter her home country because of political unrest,

“I want to create a better community where Isabella can always come back home,” Lopez said. “I want Isabella to always have that. The only way I can create that is if it’s me doing something.”

Alex Wight, creator of the Flanagan’s Table dinners in Buxton, donated the venue. Tabitha Perry of Crush Distributors will provide the wine, and Briana Volk of Portland Hunt & Alpine Club will be mixing cocktails. Lopez is hoping this $150-per-plate dinner will be the first of many; she hopes to start a nonprofit organization that will run future culinary fundraisers for the children’s hospital. She’d like to include in those events former patients and their families who can speak to diners about their experiences at the hospital.

“We’re so lucky to have a place like that in Maine for our kids,” Lopez said. “I don’t want to use it, but how lucky are we?”

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