Kids First, an organization that teaches peaceful co-parenting skills, raised money for its work and celebrated its recent growth Sept. 29 at its Back in Bloom gala at Throttle car club in Scarborough, a few miles from where the nonprofit moved its education center in early 2019.

Two hundred people – including attorneys, social workers and parents who have been through Kids First programs – turned out for the four-hour gala. Guests took photos with antique cars, enjoyed a dinner buffet by Mainely Pig Roast, danced to live music by Champagne Casanova, and bid on live and silent auction items. The event raised more than $30,000 for Kids First programs, outreach and family scholarships.

”We were able to pivot and offer our services online, reaching thousands of people a year statewide,” said board president Susan Wiggin. “We help people across the continuum, from amicable divorce services to intensive co-parenting education in high-conflict divorces.”

Classes teach skills such as direct and cordial communication, rather than forcing children of divorce to relay messages.

“So many couples are dealing with raising kids together but separately,” said Mark Woodbury, who attended a class when he went through a divorce and then served on the board. “It really made me think about things.”

Family law attorney Diane Dusini said, “The court now strongly recommends the program to parents, and Kids First also run programs for kids where they can talk with other kids.”


Event co-chair Chelsea Torrey said that the Kids First mission is important to her because she was the child of divorce – at 6 months old – and now shares a child with another party.

“My parents were always cordial and gave me a lot of freedom of choice when it came to spending time with both of them,” she said. “My stepmom and stepdad entered my life when I was around 9 or 10. Now, 25 years later, I consider myself blessed with the most caring, loving ‘bonus’ parents, who have stuck by my side through many hurdles in life and epitomize what the Kids First mission is about.”

Torrey asked her dad and stepmom, Carlton and Kim Chase, to stand for applause.

“Stepparents make the world go ’round if you give them the opportunity,” she said.

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

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