“I don’t get to call a lot of Camp Sunshine events ‘crazy, sexy, cool,’ ” said Michael Smith, development director for the Sebago Lake camp for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. “But this is the coolest party in Portland.”

Five years ago Mark Richard, a partner with Keller Williams, asked the owners of MAC Air Group if his real estate firm could borrow their hangar and one of their planes for a weekend to raise money for Camp Sunshine. Alysan and Allyn Caruso agreed, and they hosted the Maine Suitcase Party out of their maintenance hangar for four years.

MAC Air Group’s new 33,000-square-foot aircraft storage space opened just in time to host this year’s Suitcase Party on the evening of Sept. 23, hours after the facility’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We could eat off the floor,” joked Shona Longstaff, representing Keller Williams.

With more room to party, organizers were able to sell 700 tickets. Each ticketholder had a chance to win a flight on a private plane to New York City for the weekend, leaving right then and there. The Hawker 1000 usually shuttles the rich and famous, with a client base as varied as rock band Black Sabbath and Hillary Clinton, before she got her own plane.

“Who wouldn’t like the idea of being able to jet off?” asked Rick Dow, a Realtor with Keller Williams. “But the kids are with their grandmother tonight, so we win either way.”


“I’m ready to go,” said Jeff Peterson of Portland. “I’d feel like a rock star.”

Brady Hecht of South Portland and Millissa Wlodylo of Portland packed bags and took an Uber ride to the party, just in case.

“But even if we don’t win it, we’re here for a good cause,” Hecht said.

Four winners – two from a raffle drawing and two more from an auction – and their guests took off for New York before the party ended. Among the winners were two Realtors with Keller Williams, Sharlotte Schoff and John Hatcher, who brought their significant others with them.

With this fifth event in the books, the Maine Suitcase Party has raised about $300,000 for Camp Sunshine over five years.

Air travel hopes and fundraising aside, it was a spectacular event, with women dressed as retro flight attendants, Circus Maine aerial performers dangling from the rafters and rock ‘n’ roll provided by a band fittingly named The Time Pilots.

“You don’t go partying with acrobats and planes every day,” laughed Kate Ryan of Gorham.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at amyparadysz@gmail.com.

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