Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine raised over $69,000 through its Oct. 28 Hearts & Hands Gala & Auction at Aura, supporting its houses in Portland and Bangor.

The event included live and silent auctions, hors d’oeuvres, Eighty-8 Donuts and Gelato Fiasco, and live music by Sugarbox.

Chris and Robyn Taylor of Nobleboro shared their story of how the Ronald McDonald House in Portland made it possible for them to stay nearby for the 114 days that their son Oliver was in the neonatal intensive unit at Maine Medical Center last year.

“With so much regarding Oliver’s health being unpredictable and still so fragile, it’s a huge weight off our shoulders knowing that if Oliver were to be hospitalized again, Robyn and I would have a place to unwind and take care of ourselves so that we could focus on Oliver,” said Chris Taylor, a police officer in Knox County.

That’s the mission of Ronald McDonald Houses – to help families feel at home even when they can’t be. In 2022, more than 315 families have stayed in one of the 36 guest rooms in Portland or one of the 14 guest rooms near Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

“Having a place to stay and a meal takes a lot of stress off a family trying to focus on a loved one in the hospital,” said Heather Keeling of The Dental Loft, which donates toothbrushes and toothpaste.

It takes a lot of volunteer hours to keep the houses as inviting as they are – nearly 4,000 hours this year so far. The gala included kudos for the more than 20 dedicated volunteers who kept coming in during the pandemic shutdown. They include Marilee Pandiscio, a retired legal secretary who puts her spreadsheet experience to use in addition to cleaning, doing laundry and checking families in and out on Wednesday nights.

“I love it when they bring their little babies into the house, maybe the night before they go home,” she said.

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

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