“Words matter,” said Telling Room mentor Charlie Miller, as he accepted the fourth annual Red Buoy Award at Glitterati, the Telling Room’s annual fundraiser and literary ball, on April 7 at the Westin Portland Harborview hotel.

“To write our stories, to tell our stories, and to listen to others’ stories,” he said, pausing, clearly moved by both the tribute and his personal experience, “…where would these young people be if they did not have the Telling Room to tell their stories? I accept this award on behalf of all of those who have made the Telling Room such a success.”

The evening was festive in feel, with hundreds of guests turned out in tuxedos and gorgeous frocks, eager to show their support for the nonprofit writing center in Portland that celebrates young writers and their natural ability as storytellers. The event raised $108,000.

Clothing designer Jill McGowan attended with friends Jenny McBrady and Amy Kuhn of Falmouth. Longtime supporters and inaugural Red Buoy winners Patty and Cyrus Hagge were there, as well as 2014 winners Mary Allen Lindemann and Alan Spear of Coffee By Design, and Jessica Tomlinson, board president of SPACE Gallery, who accepted the 2015 award on behalf of the contemporary art space on Congress Street.

“Our students are transformed by the work they do in this program,” said Mallory Haar, an English Language Learners Program teacher at Casco Bay High School in Portland.

Her colleague Erika Schneider, an ELL teacher at Deering High School, echoed her sentiments.

“It supports everything we do, and in an incredibly meaningful way.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo was on hand to introduce the evening’s featured authors, five students from the Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program, which was recognized by the White House last fall with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

“We, who glitter here tonight, may not have spent our lives dodging rockets… but we’ve all known fear, and want, and we’ve all known what it feels like to be on the outside looking in…”

With that, Richard Akera, Rachel Iradukunda, Milly Mpundu, Salim Salim and Elahe Seddiqi took the stage, captivating the audience with their powerful words and collective experience.

“The thing that’s most special about tonight is our featured authors,” explained Telling Room grant writer Sarah Schneider. “They’re amazing bridge builders for our community. They are wonderful kids and they put their heart and soul into working with us.”

“Being able to share the film about our trip to the White House and having the students read their work on stage was electrifying,” said executive director Heather Davis, after the event. “People were so moved by what they experienced. That excitement translated into one of our most successful events ever.”

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

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