Annual auction to benefit YMCA adaptive services

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FREEPORT — When the YMCA looks to serve the community, it doesn’t want to leave anyone out.

That includes people with illnesses and disabilities. 

“One of the things I’m most proud of with the Y is that we’re committed to serving all people,” Helen Brena, the CEO of YMCA of Southern Maine, said.

To help fund the YMCA’s adaptive services programs, the organization will be holding its 14th annual Adaptive Services Auction from 6-9 p.m. April 7 at the Hilton Garden Inn. The event, which typically draws a couple hundred attendees, will have silent and live auctions, a raffle, hors d’oeuvres and a wine bar.

The YMCA of Southern Maine, which has branches in Freeport, Portland, Biddeford and New Gloucester, has 138 participants in its adaptive services programs. The programs, which include one-on-one, group, and aquatic classes, are for people who have had strokes, cerebral palsy, or brain injuries, or have neuromuscular diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

According to Sarah Leighton, the YMCA’s director of advancement, the programming “helps participants with mental and physical challenges improve or regain quality of life by developing their bodies through specialized exercise and their self-esteem through personal relationships with peers, friends, and support staff.”

For example, the Casco Bay branch in Freeport offers an exercise and movement class, as well as a support group, for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Brena said it’s important for the YMCA to serve a diverse range of people.

“One aspect of diversity is ability,” she said. “We want people to come learn, grow, and thrive at the Y regardless of ability.”

“Adaptive services is strongest at Freeport, and our goal is to make that offering as strong at all of our branches,” Brena said.

The money raised at the event, which will come from auction items and ticket sales, will be used for new programming, fund current programming, and continuing to support staff. Last year’s event raised $56,000, and the goal this year is to raise at least that much.

“We’re hoping to raise more so we can serve more people,” Casco Bay Branch Executive Scott Krouse said.

Tickets for the event can be bought on the YMCA’s website, in person at one of the branches, or by calling 865-9600. Tickets are $45 each or $75 for two. 

Krouse said donations can be made through the website or by going to one of the four branches for those who are unable to attend.

The event will start with the silent auction, which will include gift cards to local restaurants, paintings and jewelry made by local artists, tickets to Patriots and Sea Dogs games, and various overnight stays.

“We try to make sure there’s something available for everyone at every price point,” Krouse said.

The live auction will have larger items, such as a Thos. Moser bench, a weekend stay at a lakeside cottage in Freedom, New Hampshire, a “package for romantics” that includes $750 to spend at Brown Goldsmiths, and a catamaran trip in Nantucket for 12 people.

Prior to the live auction, Krouse said there will be a presentation to share why adaptive services programs are so vital. There will be impact stories and a testimonial from a participant. The YMCA’s Live Strong cancer survivor’s program, which is free to anyone who has or had cancer, will also be discussed.

Then, people will be asked to donate on the spot, which the YMCA calls Fund the Need. Krouse said this usually brings in around $8,000.

Krouse said the auction is so important because it’s what keeps the programming going and, without the adaptive services offerings, a lot of people wouldn’t have the support they need.

“The one word that keeps coming to mind is ‘hope,'” Krouse said. “A lot of times people just need that extra support. We provide a lot of hope when people really need it.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.