Noah Johnson, who attends Waban’s preschool program, and his cousin Haley Eddows  were on stage at St. Ignatius Gym at the Waban Telethon Saturday. The Telethon raised more than $88,000, which will go towards a new autism wing at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center. TAMMY WELLS/Journal /Tribune

Noah Johnson, who attends Waban’s preschool program, and his cousin Haley Eddows were on stage at St. Ignatius Gym at the Waban Telethon Saturday. The Telethon raised more than $88,000, which will go towards a new autism wing at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center. TAMMY WELLS/Journal /Tribune

SANFORD — Mary Nason remembers dispensing handouts advocating for Waban and the annual telethon when she was a student at Sanford High School. A few decades later, she is still involved, this time taking charge of the gift certificate booth with her sister, Debbie Treves, who has volunteered at the telethon for the past few years.

Sisters Mary Nason and Debbie Treves share a laugh Saturday at Waban Telethon, there they both volunteer. Pitching in to help Waban began early in their lives, when their  childhood Sanford neighborhood organized  fundraisers like their own “Olympic” games to help the programs. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Sisters Mary Nason and Debbie Treves share a laugh Saturday at Waban Telethon, there they both volunteer. Pitching in to help Waban began early in their lives, when their childhood Sanford neighborhood organized fundraisers like their own “Olympic” games to help the programs. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

They’ve championed Waban for a long time; it is a tradition in their family, and one of their relatives benefited from the services offered at Waban.

Three teams of volunteers each took two hours Saturday to take pledges at the Waban Telethon. In the phone bank for the first two hours were folks from SIS Bank, including, left to right, Rachel Perez, Kim Stewart, Julie Towle and Cathy Walters. They were followed by volunteers from Southern Maine Health Care and Altrusa. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Three teams of volunteers each took two hours Saturday to take pledges at the Waban Telethon. In the phone bank for the first two hours were folks from SIS Bank, including, left to right, Rachel Perez, Kim Stewart, Julie Towle and Cathy Walters. They were followed by volunteers from Southern Maine Health Care and Altrusa. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

“Waban was a help to him,” said Nason.

Nason and Treves remember the Sanford neighborhood where they were raised hosting its own “Olympics” as a fundraiser for Waban. 

Dee Rodrigue, a member of the Social Justice Committee of Holy Family Church, who is credited with founding the telethon, also lived in that neighborhood. Rodrigue had been tasked by the priest of the parish, Rev. Roland Patenaude, to find a way to help Waban.

Originally, the parish held a smorgasbord, but after a year or two Rodrigue and the other committee members decided a telethon, similar to the Jerry Lewis Telethon, which was in its heyday at the time, would be a good fundraiser.

They were right. Saturday marked the 46th Waban Telethon.

Held at St. Ignatius Gym, the telethon continues to be sponsored by St. Thèrése of Liseux Parish.

The gym was a beehive of activity at 11 a.m., one hour into the telethon. There were folks selling pastries and other food items, raffles for chances to win everything from a canoe to a drone, gift baskets, and much more.

Throughout the day, a variety of entertainers were scheduled to perform, from fiddlers to dancers,  and a couple of state legislators — Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford, and Sen. David Woodsome, (R- District 33) — stopped by to voice their support.

The telethon was broadcast live over Metrocast and Time Warner Cable throughout all of Maine and parts of New Hampshire.

In the back, call takers were wearing headsets, taking pledges. For the first couple of hours, volunteers from SIS Bank took calls, and were to be followed by volunteers from Southern Maine Health Care and Altrusa.

The first pledge of the day was $100, call takers said, a signal, perhaps, of the productive day to come.

By the time 6 p.m. conclusion rolled around, $88,255 had been pledged to Waban, topping 2016 pledges by more than $1,100.

Organizers say continued pledges are welcome, and may be made online at: waban.org/donate-paypal-now.aspx.

Jessica Douin’s son Damon attends preschool programs at Waban’s Fraser-Ford Child Development Center. She said what he learns at school is carried over at home, through the help of Waban staff.

“They work so well with parents to help them learn,” said Douin during a broadcast interview during the telethon. She said she was nervous about what to expect at first, but since Damon walked into the classroom at Waban, she said, “It’s never felt like a bad day.”

Noah Johnson, who will attend kindergarten at MSAD 60  in the fall, attends Waban’s preschool.

“He’s integrated well,” said his mother Erica, who, as well as being a parent of a Waban student, also works there. “The child development center is a good spot for any kid.”

This year, the money raised through the telethon will go to the new autism therapy wing of the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center, providing much-needed additional classroom space, therapy rooms and a multi-purpose room. Waban Director Neal Meltzer said the nonprofit plans to break ground soon on the project, and hopes to open this fall.

Among those volunteering Saturday was Greg Patterson, a member of the board of directors, who was greeting attendees with his fiancee, Heather Lynch. He noted the fine work the organization does with developmentally disabled children and adults. 

”Waban is an organization I could embrace and feel good about,” said Patterson of his involvement. “(Waban) is a good story for Sanford.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]



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