It started with five friends wanting to throw a party to close out the summer.

“For a lot of years I’ve wanted to have an end-of-season blow-out party that gave summer residents an opportunity to donate and raise funding for whatever the pressing need is in the community,” said Rick Taranto, owner of Old Vine Wines Bar and Details Events Staging, and one of the friends, with Ronni Hass, Kristen Martin, Cyndi Smith and Kim Vieira.

Operating out of the Kennebunk Rotary Charitable Fund, the group, called Above Board, has hosted two end-of-summer bashes, together raising $110,000 for community efforts related to addiction recovery.

“You folks are making a difference,” said Kennebunk Police Chief Bob MacKenzie at this year’s event Aug. 22 at The Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport. “Law enforcement routinely deals with people with substance use disorder and mental illness, and Sweetser will conduct ride-alongs with our officers to provide much-needed follow-up.”

“When an individual experiences a moment of crisis, it’s often the first time they are receiving support for their addiction and mental health issues,” said Debra Taylor, president and CEO of Sweetser, a mental health organization. “It’s that moment that leads them to the community connections and treatment that will set them on the path to recovery. Lives will be changed.”

Lives already have been changed since the creation of a recovery coach training academy, made possible by the $50,000 raised at last year’s gala. Torie Smith, one of the 40 graduates so far, has since chosen a career in the addiction recovery field and begun training deputies at York County Jail about substance use disorder and harm reduction.


“What an event,” Smith said, beaming in a red evening gown at The Colony.

The 1920s-inspired, Miami-esque masquerade included dinner stations by Sol Food, Academe, Crotux, Nonantum Resort, Old Vines Wine Bar, David’s, Walkers and, of course, The Colony Hotel. As the evening wore on, the popular Carmine Band was nearly overshadowed by a trio of glistening young men – friends of an event host – dancing on tables in shiny gold short shorts, feathers and bling.

“I think we surprised a few people and I don’t think The Colony is ever going to get the glitter out of their carpet,” Taranto laughed.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected].

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