For the first time in four years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine on May 4 brought its Spring for the Kids dinner gala back to the Portland Clubhouse, raising a record-breaking $210,000.

“Our clubs have gone through major changes since we last joined together here for Spring for the Kids,” said board chair Chris Cimino of Falmouth. “We’ve revitalized our programs in the arts, academics, leadership and health and wellness to engage young people and help them find their passions. We launched a new Bridge to Success initiative to equip teens with the skills they will need for fulfilling careers. And we’ve deepened our partnerships with school districts and organizations, foundations, corporations and individuals.”

“What this club does for Portland’s social fabric is immense,” said Tony Buxton, a longtime contributor from Portland. “It brings people together.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine have opened four new locations – at King Middle School in Portland, at Brick Hill/Redbank Village in South Portland, at the Lewiston Armory, and at Biddeford Middle School. An average of 450 youths visit one of nine locations each day.

“It’s like a second home where they can do homework and participate in arts, music and athletics,” said board member Laura Young of Durham.

The Portland Clubhouse teen room and gymnasium were transformed by Spring for the Kids event planners for a silent auction, followed by a buffet dinner with a live auction, youth vocal performances and remarks by Chief Executive Officer Brian Elowe.


“The challenges that many youths today face include food insecurity, issues related to behavioral health and trauma, and living in hotels or shelters or with no place to live at all,” Elowe said, adding the clubs gained about 150 new members from asylum-seeking families this spring. “We’re helping them to assimilate into the community and learn English, and their parents know they are safe.”

The clubs are also a place to find positive roles models – like Portland Clubhouse Youth of the Year Jayden Moore, whose story brought gala attendees to a standing ovation.

When Moore was 3 to 12 years old, his father worked at the South Portland teen room and he would tag along, practicing his jump shot, making music to perform for the club and looking up to the teens. “I wanted to be just like them,” he said. “And it was these experiences in South Portland that set the stage for my future.”

Moore said he lost the Boys & Girls Clubs outlet when his father took a job farther north and moved to Richmond and they had a “falling out.”

Then, as a freshman at Portland High School, Moore walked across the street and joined the Portland Clubhouse. “But, with my mom losing her battle with alcoholism, I moved in with my grandparents in Gorham,” he said. “During the pandemic my sophomore year, my mom faced another relapse, which led to me and my brother being put in foster care. Fortunately, our grandmother stepped in.”

Moore’s voice boomed with pride as he announced that his mother has been sober for three years and regained custody of her sons.


“I share that story not for pity but for hope to inspire somebody in that situation to fight, because there’s always a way through,” he said. “Junior year, I marched right back into the club. I was focused on improving my mindset and my mental health. And now the results are showing.”

Over the past year as a senior, Moore was co-captain of the Portland Clubhouse’s championship basketball team. He was a cast member in three theater productions at Portland High, including as the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” And he was accepted to the University of Maine at Orono, where he plans to study theater.

“On top of this, I work 10 to 20 hours a week to try to support my family as our home’s currently only source of income,” he said. “I owe everything to the lessons I was taught both here in Portland and across the bridge in South Portland, I’m a product of my role models, and I’m making strong efforts every day to provide the best example I can for younger members, like teens did for me.”

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

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