The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s 37th annual Spring for the Kids auction drew close to 300 supporters, many with deep ties to the organization going back decades or even generations.

Host committee chair Tom Manning learned to shoot hoops at the Portland Clubhouse, which he joined at the age of 8. Auction co-chair Jane Stevens married the great-great-grandson of architect John Calvin Stevens, who designed the Portland Clubhouse, where the April 5 event was held. And board member David Brenerman is inspired by the difference the Boys Club made in the life of his father, who immigrated from Eastern Europe.

“We can make a difference in kids’ lives,” Brenerman said. “The club made a difference in my father’s life, and that’s what we try to do. We’re still welcoming immigrants. They’re a major part of our membership, as they always have been.”

“It’s not just swimming and basketball, though we have those things,” said auction co-chair Chris Cimino, whose father was also a board member. “It’s a safe place for kids to learn, to get a meal and to just be kids.”

“You spend one minute in this club and see the kids here and know how important it is to them,” said board member Kathy Coster of Falmouth.

The auction raised over $110,000 to support the five clubhouses serving 2,900 members a year in Portland, South Portland and Auburn/Lewiston.

“Tonight is also a time to see our friends and supporters, staff and volunteers,” said Chief Operating Officer Karen MacDonald.

One of the most notable supporters at the auction was Gov. Janet Mills, who recollects that her brother Peter Mills learned to swim at the Portland Clubhouse.

“Two of our girls who performed for the governor’s inauguration got to see her tonight,” said Chief Executive Officer Bob Clark, referring to fifth-grade singers Shy Paca and Natalia Mbadu, whose rendition of Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire” was an inauguration sensation. Mills, Paca and Mbadu signed a framed photograph of their inauguration hug, taken by Portland Press Herald photographer Brianna Soukup and auctioned in support of the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“The Boys & Girls Club is such an egalitarian, non-discriminatory place for kids to learn and expand their horizons,” Mills said.

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

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