The Center for Grieving Children’s Love Gala at Brick South at Thompson’s Point on Feb. 2 was a date-night worthy event – with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, a photo booth, live and silent auctions and 10-piece dance party band Plush.

Executive Director Anne Heros was feeling the love as 350 gala guests gave her a standing ovation and the family of the late Bill Hemmens – who founded the center in 1986 – presented her with an award in his name.

“Anne’s introduction to the center was in 1992 after the sudden death of her daughter,” said board president Doug Currier. “Since then, Anne has dedicated her life’s work to the center, and in doing so, she has touched the lives of thousands of people who are facing the toughest of life’s challenges.”

“It has been an exciting journey,” said Heros, who has been with the center as a family member, volunteer, staff member and, for the past 23 years, executive director. She plans to retire and spend more time with grandchildren once her replacement has been found.

Under Heros’ leadership, the Center for Grieving Children has expanded services into York County with a second facility in Sanford, reached families statewide through online services, initiated an intercultural program with Portland Public Schools, collaborated with Camp Sunshine and respond to the October mass shooting in Lewiston – all this while providing peer grief support for 650 Mainers a year at no charge.

With the center now in its 36th year, an increasing number of volunteers have been through the program themselves as children.


“My mom passed away when I was 14, and my younger sister and I went to support groups, and my dad went to a parent group,” said Ryan Bailer, a Scarborough resident who serves on the development committee. “The center offers a safe space to be with others going through the loss of a loved one.”

Paul Attardo of Scarborough has volunteered with grieving children for 22 years. “To be able to help children find their voice through the hardest time in their life is such a rewarding experience,” he said.

The gala was supported by 20 corporate sponsors from the local business community. A trio of “Joy Partners” – Patrons Oxford Insurance, Martin’s Point Health Care and Wex – offered to match the first $45,000 pledged by gala guests, and that total was surpassed.

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

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