It takes more than spare change to fund the programs of today’s March of Dimes.

At its latest Maine fundraiser, the annual Chefs Showcase and Auction Sept. 28 at DiMillo’s on the Water, about 250 guests sampled little culinary works of art by more than a dozen Portland area chefs from restaurants including Baharat, Honey Paw and Union. Besides being delicious fun, the event raised $55,000 to help prevent premature births and support emotionally strained parents of little ones in neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs.

“The March of Dimes is a great agency that has been around for a very long time and has effectively addressed a lot of different conditions, from polio to birth defects to prematurity,” said board treasurer Dan Gayer, whose wife, Sarah, was a March of Dimes baby.

About 950 to 1,000 premature babies are admitted to the NICU at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center each year.

“They put us in contact with people who would have been through the same situation,” said Sarah Brokofsky of Portland, whose 17-month-old daughter, Maggie, was premature – and survived.

Not all outcomes are as positive.

“We lost our son after 10 days in the NICU,” said Chrisanna Greeley of South Portland. “His name was Drew.”

Despite the busy life Greeley now leads as the mother of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, she volunteers with March of Dimes to set time aside to honor baby Drew, who was buried with a March of Dimes kangaroo stuffed animal.

“I felt like I needed to channel my energy somewhere,” said Greeley, who co-chaired the auction.

After a stay in the NICU, parents tend to remember exactly how many days their baby was there.

“It goes by slow and fast all at the same time,” said Brooke Adams, whose 3-year-old daughter, Evelyn, was born at 27 weeks and spent 13 days in the NICU.

“Some are in the NICU up to a year before they’re ready to go home,” said neonatologist Amy McBee. “So, it’s good to remember and pay homage to what a journey it is for these babies and these families. It’s a disruptive, unsettling, life-changing experience.”

For families and caregivers, the annual Chefs Showcase is a bit like a reunion.

“I think events like this are important to reconnect families and their care teams,” said Misty Melendi, medical director at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital NICU at Maine Medical Center.

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

[email protected]

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