The Center for Grieving Children celebrated its 35th anniversary July 19 with a garden party and a Don Campbell Band concert at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel.

The center, which provides support services for people who have lost loved ones, met its $15,000 fundraising goal, thanks to dozens of corporate sponsors, a silent auction and a paddle raise for donations.

“It’s called the Center for Grieving Children, but it’s really full family support,” said Shannon Moore, a development committee member from Westbrook. “They were the ones who helped me to know how to tell my 6-year-old son that his father had died. And it was a place to center my soul.”

All services are free – thanks to fundraising and hundreds of volunteers. “Our volunteers make the organization what it is,” said Bill Kany, a former board member.

When it started 35 years ago, the nonprofit was just four families and 12 volunteers meeting in a hospital basement. Now, with programs based out of Portland and Sanford, it serves thousands of children, teens, young adults and families through peer support, outreach and education.

Mark Pettingill of Scarborough lost his wife 11 years ago and came to the center with his two boys. “I’m a big believer in the services,” he said. “And we offer them for free, which is why this fundraiser is so important. We’ve been doing a lot of smaller fundraisers rather than one big gala.”


Incoming board president Mike Wilson of Cape Elizabeth lost his wife to cancer when his daughter was a senior in high school, and she was part of a teen support group both during her mother’s terminal illness and after her death.

“This was a calming place in the chaos,” he said. “She could feel comfortable and supported and to trust everyone there sharing stories with peers going through the same thing.”

While cancer death remains the top reason for referral to the center, opioid overdoses and suicide are also common.

“Being able to talk about something like suicide was beneficial for my three children in processing a significant loss,” said Tracy Collins of Saco, whose husband Dr. Gregory Collins died in 2015. “The center was a place to start with something not normal and find a way to adjust your family dynamics, support one another and learn coping tools and communication skills.”

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Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at

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