Even the Rotary Club that hosted Party with a Purpose was surprised when more than 300 people turned out for their annual Maine Children’s Cancer Program fundraiser at DiMillo’s. And it was a very good surprise indeed when Party for a Purpose broke its fundraising record, bringing in $40,000 for the cancer treatment and support program.

“Last year, people came, but not like today,” said Honore Ndoli, a member of the Rotary Club of Portland Sunrise. “Today the boat is too small. I think the community is committed to help. It’s amazing today.”

The live auction included a spirited bidding war on an African safari vacation that went for $4,300 – when the auctioneer admitted there was a second trip available, which the runner-up bidders purchased for $4,200.

“It has been a generous year with our sponsors, supporters, members and donors,” said Lauren Kelly, a member of the event committee.

Members of other local Rotary Clubs, including the Rotary Club of South Portland/Cape Elizabeth, turned out to support this cause as well.

A highlight of the evening was meeting 6-year-old Emma Dube, this year’s Slugger Kid for Strike Out Cancer in Kids, a fundraising and awareness-raising partnership between the Portland Sea Dogs and the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.

“It’s taken me about five years to be able to talk to people without getting emotional,” said Tom Dube, whose youngest daughter was diagnosed with cancer at 10 months old and is now a healthy first grader at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham. “I feel a lot of great things happening tonight. It’s overwhelming to see the group support.”

“Anybody who is a parent thinks ‘but for the grace of God, go I,’ ” said Deborah Buccina of Falmouth. “Think of the parents who had children afflicted with cancer and how they’re managing that. It’s heart-breaking. This is a special program.”

“When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it obviously affects the whole family, and we want to care for the whole family,” said Dr. Eric Larsen, medical director of Maine Children’s Cancer Program. “This type of event allows us to provide a level of care that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to provide.”

“We have a very kid-friendly environment,” said Marie Allen, a secretary at Maine Children’s Cancer Program who sees kids looking forward to the prize box and toy closet. “When people walk in the door, kids are smiling. … It doesn’t make cancer go away, but it makes it easier to take.”

Maine Children’s Cancer Program has received a total of $250,000 from the previous 17 years of Party with a Purpose, an event organized by a Rotary Club of just 20 members.

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

[email protected]


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