Pretty paddles: fundraiser to benefit Port Teen Center

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FREEPORT — The items auctioned this year to support the Port Teen Center may not lead to prettier sitting, but they could make for colorful paddling.

For three years, students, parents and community members have hand-painted donated chairs then sold to the highest bidder as part of the Sitting Pretty annual auction held at the Freeport Town Center.

This year, the March 25 event features smaller items with a distinct local flavor – 100 paddles donated by L.L. Bean.

Randall Wade Thomas, a longtime volunteer at the teen center, open to youth between seventh and 12th grades, said the change to paddles is timely.

“How many chairs can people buy?” she asked, while noting community generosity in the three previous auctions meant each one raised about $10,000.

Thomas has helped organize the auction each year, partly in memory of her son, Max, who died from cancer almost four years ago.

But it is more than just memory for her, she said.

“It is really about the community and its support for the teen center. This is a community of very creative people,”” she said. She envisioned doubled the fundraising this year, but was not certain how high buyers would bid for paddles.

Money raised at the auction, held from 4:30 – 6 p.m. at the Community Center at 53 Depot St., helps fund an annual $65,000 budget, Thomas said.

Sitting Pretty is a Thomas family affair – Thomas’s daughter, Mia, has contributed her work to each auction.

Mia Thomas is now a senior at Freeport High School and said the raven and tree she painted on the paddle this year was not difficult once she got the idea.

She added it was a hard decision as to whether the paddle handle should be come part of the art, but ultimately decided the slightly rounded paddle surface worked well for the acrylic, silhouetted painting.

Freeport senior Chelsey Small is also an annual contributor to Sitting Pretty and recalled how much Port Teen Center meant to her.

“I loved it as a freshman, it was a great place to chill,” she said.

Port Teen Center is open from 2:20 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for youths in the Regional School Unit 5 towns of Durham, Freeport and Pownal. It is a division of RSU 5 Recreation and Community Education, and offers a chem-free gathering spot with pool and Foosball tables, a flat-screen TV and wi-fi Internet capability.

“Not many people see it, but kids rely on it,” Small said.

Randall Wade Thomas said her son’s friends were very creative, and the idea to auction painted chairs came when a group of them went out to pick up some donated furniture.

Uncertain if the auction idea would endure, Thomas said the response after each event is the same.

“They ask ‘what are we painting next year?'” she said.

Small also chose an avian theme for her paddle, and credited Freeport art teacher Kimberly Medsker-Mehalic with steering her toward native Alaskan art as an inspiration.

“The paddles are pretty interesting compared to chairs. I’m pretty excited, I haven’t had a lot of my work displayed,” Small said.

Also joining in the creative fun this year is Elnel Browder, who normally organizes catering for the auction.

“It started out as one thing and ended up as something else,” she said with a laugh about the multicolored tropical fish that can be viewed at

If uncertain how her painting will be received, Browder said she enjoyed the work.

“I like creating, it is very relaxing,” she said.

Hers is one of 15 paddles now on display at Clayton’s Cafe on Route 1 in Yarmouth. She said she would go in soon to see her work on the restaurant wall.

“I’ll go incognito, even though I will probably know everyone there,” she said.

On Friday, L.L. Bean will display 35 paddles at its Main Street store. Wade Thomas said all 100 of the paddles donated by L.L. Bean will get painted and auctioned.

The minimum bid for the paddles is $50. Thomas said unpainted paddles sell for $65 at L.L. Bean.

Admission to Sitting Pretty 2012 is $10 per person and $25 per family.For more information about the event and the Port Teen Center, visit

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Sidebar Elements

Freeport High School senior Ellie Soule captured an African landscape to help raise money for the Port Teen Center. Using 100 canoe paddles donated by L.L. Bean, students, parents and community members painted designs for the March 25 auction to benefit the teen center located in the Freeport Communcity Center.

Freeport High School staff and students contribute artistic talent to the Sitting Pretty 2012 auction to benefit Port Teen Center in Freeport. Freeport junior Whitney Megquier used a paddle donated by L.L. Bean to create her colorful, abstract swirls. Below her work is a rendering of Sugarloaf Mountain painted by Freeport math teacher Jay Thomas. The paddles are on display at Clayton’s Cafe on Route 1 in Yarmouth. More painted paddles will be displayed at L.L. Bean beginning tomorrow.

Freeport junior Lorin Martens painted this fetching scene on a paddle donated by L.L. Bean to benefit the Sitting Pretty 2012 auction. Bidders on this and 99 other paddles will help raise money for the Port Teen Center in Freeport. The auction is on March 25 at the Freeport Community Center.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.