As the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine prepares to move across Portland this year, from Free Street to Thompson’s Point, it hosted its first Winter Gala, with a reception, live and silent auctions and community awards at the Westin Portland Harborview. More than 200 elegantly dressed supporters turned out to the March 1 gala honoring longtime volunteers Pamela Plumb and Michael Bourque.

“Pam has been a member for 20 years, has worked tirelessly on many committees and is currently contributing her time and expertise to raise funds for our capital campaign to build a new museum and theater at Thompson’s Point,” said Executive Director Suzanne Olson. “Pam is a role model for future community leaders and philanthropists, and we express our deep gratitude to her for all that she has done for Maine children and their families.”

“It’s stunningly important for very young children to have stimulation and active play,” Plumb said. “It makes an enormous difference.”

Bourque, president and chief executive officer of MEMIC (Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company), first joined the Children’s Theatre of Maine board in 2005 when his twins, Will and Kate, now seniors at Portland High School, were in kindergarten.

“By 2006, it was clear that the theater couldn’t keep going financially the way the way we were going,” Bourque said, adding that the nonprofit cut programs and eventually went on a six-month hiatus from producing shows. “The theater had been around for more than 80 years, and it wasn’t going to fail on my watch,” he said.

In 2007, the theater staged its first productions at the Children’s Museum of Maine, and in 2008, the organizations merged. Fourteen years later, the Bourque twins are looking toward college, and their father is actively involved in the capital campaign to raise $13.75 million for the new facility.

“It’s an important project for Portland and, really, for the state of Maine,” Bourque said. “The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine is one of the important amenities that attract young families to the region.”

In addition to live and silent auctions that raised money for the museum’s operating expenses, the gala included an opportunity to raise a paddle to donate scholarships for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford an annual membership. Fifty-five people raised their paddles, pledging a total of $24,000 – enough for 200 family scholarships.

“There’s all this research that shows that years 0 to 5 are so important for brain development,” said board member Barbee Gilman, who donated to the scholarship fund. “The scholarship program is so important, because we don’t want there to be a gap in opportunities caused by economics. The families can come as many times as they want, and there’s programming all day with science, music and the arts.”

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

[email protected]

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