Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Superhero Addy’s family gives to other families by Michelle Libby

Addy Madsen is officially in remission
When one is a superhero there are bound to be challenges. For Addy Madsen of Raymond, her challenge was beating leukemia. 

In June of 2015, Addy was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia that usually strikes the elderly, but after two rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant from an anonymous donor, she is home and adjusting to being an adventurous first grader. In January 2016, she was officially in remission. 

Doctor’s appointments continue to be scheduled to follow her organs, because post-transplant kids can have late term effects from chemotherapy, said Jessica Madsen, Addy’s mother. 

“In the beginning it was so much to wrap your head around. You have all these ideas in your head about cancer. Since that time, we are so much more educated on cancer and survival rates. We feel really lucky. That’s what’s driving us to help other families,” Jessica said. “It’s a club you never want to be a part of. Early on we really struggled. I wanted to let people into her journey. I didn’t know what we were getting people into, but I wanted the page to give people hope.” the knowledge the family learned, and the monetary support, they were able to make the most of the treatment that Addy received in Boston at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. They also receive care through Maine Cancer Network.  

“We are really grateful for Addy, her doctors and her outcome. We just want that for every kid facing cancer,” said Jessica.

The Super Hero Addy Foundation set up for Addy “started when she got sick. Cancer is expensive,” said Leigh-Anne Fortin, who set up the account. “It was a way for people to help. We set up a Go Fund Me account and held a benefit two years ago. It helped Jess, Dave and Cassidhe.” The fund was a way for those who wanted to help, but didn’t know what to do, to express their support. 

Jessica left her job as a middle school dean to take care of Addy, while she lived in Boston for her treatments. The family had to do extensive cleaning, put in air filtration systems and other modification to the house. 

“It’s super expensive to do when a child has a brand new immune system,” said Jessica. When Addy was discharged she had 20 different medications. Jessica was her fulltime caregiver. “After our experience, I can’t imagine going without that support,” she said.

“We had a huge backing and we thought, we have something here,” said Fortin. “We decided let’s
keep it going. Let’s help other families with whatever we’re able to do.”

Last year, the family held a Santa fundraiser and brought in almost $14,000. With help from the Jimmy Fund, the Madsen’s were put in touch with a family from Maine whose child was undergoing a stem cell transplant. Jessica called it humbling and said it took her right back to the place she was when taking care of Addy. 

“It was hard to hear their story. We have this common bond. It’s the sense of building a community,” Jessica said. Money that the foundation raises will support pediatric oncology patients in Maine. 

This year’s fundraiser the All that Glitters is Gold black tie gala will take place on Friday, December 8 at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland, from 7 p.m. to midnight. There will be a guitarist and a DJ as well as silent auction items like airline tickets, Sunday River passes and more. There will be a photo booth and a live auction. “It’ll be a fun night out. A great bonus to know you’re helping someone,” said Leigh-Anne who helped organize it with Teresa Esposito Dalton. Their goal is to raise $25,000 at the gala. “It’s a huge help for those families,” she added. Tickets are $60 per person.

“All ticket sales go back to the foundation,” said Jessica. “It’s the positivity I like about it. Cancer is pretty terrible. It’s not fair what these kids have to go through. These kids are amazing. We’re never going to cure cancer with our foundation, but mortgages or electric bills still have to be paid.”“This way they can concentrate on what’s important,” said Fortin. Sponsors for the event are Yankee Ford/Brunswick Ford/Rockland Ford, MGM Builders, Homestead Mortgage, Spiegel Scrap Metal, Martin’s Point Healthcare, Naples Marina and Maine Elevator Specialists.

Addy is a typical first grader with an unusual story. She likes lipstick and high heels. When she talks about having cancer, she said “When I was bald.” Jessica described it like a child saying, “I broke my arm.” Addy says, “I had cancer.”

“She’s kind of moved on with life,” Jessica said. “She’s spunky, sassy and loves gymnastics. She misses her time at Boston Children’s Hospital. She thinks it was like a hotel.” 

This summer Addy met her anonymous donor, when Brad Myers flew up to Maine to spend time with the family. Addy threw out the first ball at a Sea Dogs game and Brad was the catcher. It was a great reunion. 

“Brad is such an awesome part of this story,” Jessica said.
To register for All that Glitters is Gold to help children and families facing pediatric oncology, visit

A Thanksgiving reminder to enjoy what we have, where we are now - despite challenges By Linda Gregoire

Linda and John Gregoire
The following is a letter that the editor, Lorraine Glowczak, asked the author to share with our readers. The editor offers the following introduction to that letter:

As most of us busily prepare and shop for the traditional Thanksgiving feast, we also tend to hurriedly go about checking off the “to-do” list that is a mile long. Sometimes, between the demands of work, family and other community efforts, we can get swept up into all the stresses placed upon us, losing sight of things that we deem important; gratitude and gathering with family (in whatever way family looks for you).

Linda Gregoire of Windham recently shared a letter with her friends regarding her own life as she and her family prepare for Thanksgiving 2017. Although I suspect she does not need an introduction to most of our readers, here’s a little synopsis for those who may be new to the Gregoire family journey.

On December 17, 2007, Linda’s husband, John was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). According to the ALS Associations, ALS “is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. ‘A’ means no. ‘Myo’ refers to muscle, and ‘Trophic’ means nourishment – ‘No muscle nourishment.’ When a muscle has no nourishment, it ‘atrophies’ or wastes away. ‘Lateral’ identifies the areas in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates, it leads to scarring or hardening (‘sclerosis’) in the region.”

This hardening and atrophy eventually affects the muscles in the mouth and throat, making the ability to eat for the person with ALS difficult or non-existent. As a result, feeding tubes are put in place to provide the nourishment needed. Five years after his diagnosis, John was required to use a feeding tube.
Linda and John agreed to share her note with our readers on how they will enjoy their Thanksgiving feast in the midst of the challenges ALS presents. 

May the following letter provide a reminder to us all, no matter our own individual difficulties, to be joyful, happy and most importantly – grateful- despite it all.

“I was asked yesterday by the caretaker who installed a new tube feeder how we handle holidays that are celebrated with food. We all want to do whatever we can for our loved ones with a feeding tube to make life easier and normal, so I really appreciated her thoughtful question.

The last 10 Thanksgivings we’ve been faced with small incremental changes that we’ve adapted to because that’s what you have to do with ALS. I always say, ‘if you don’t go with the flow, you get caught in the rip tide.’ If anyone has had the experience of a rip tide you know what I mean - the more you try to fight it, the worse it gets. If you trust and swim in the flow, you’ll be safe. 

So, this morning after I started John’s feed and he fell asleep peacefully while his tummy was being filled, I realized how at peace he is with his current situation. In the beginning with his new tube, we struggled until we got him on a healthy formula. He still ate for pleasure by mouth, so a bowl of pistachio ice cream was eaten while formula was finding its way into his tummy. He had the best of both worlds.

I think the two saddest days for him was when he could no longer eat steak, one of his favorite meals. That came early on, as it’s so hard to chew. 

The next saddest day happened about a year ago when John would sneak a hand cut French fry when Matt [our son] and I ate at Elevation Burger. He choked so bad I almost thought of calling for help. However, once the choking passed he looked at me and shock his head ‘no.’ I asked, ‘No more for now, or no more forever?’ Tears welled in his eyes and I knew - no more forever. We both cried. 

The one thing he still can take by mouth and never chokes on is a small piece of communion bread and a sip of “wine” (grape juice) at church and, God willing, he’ll be able to forever. 

The families' dogs are thankful, too.
So as Thanksgiving approaches, it made me think how we’ve handled the holiday meal. We gather at my sister’s with as many family, friends and dogs as we can squeeze into her home - which can be 20-25 people and up to 9 dogs. 

The food has been mostly grown and raised by my sister and brother-in-law, which is a labor of love. It’s prepared with everyone in mind with oyster stuffing for some and regular stuffing for the rest of us. We all share in bringing what we can, enjoy each other’s company and catching up on life. Then we gather at the table, elbow to elbow and we remember our family that’s with us in spirit and give thanks for those we still have with us to love. 

John is seated at the table with his own spot and place card as he enjoys his ‘dinner’ too. He’s the only one allowed his electronic device because it’s for speaking and he’s the self-appointed one to keep track of the football game for the entire table. That’s as important as cooking the turkey.
We chat, pass food, laugh and, of course, we eat. Dinner is more about who’s around the table then what’s on the table. We feed our bodies and enjoy the food but more importantly, we feed our souls with love and thanks for all we have. 

So, for all our tube feeders, join in the feast and give thanks and feed your soul on love and life. This is what I’m grateful for everyday of the year, not just the days of November. Happy Thanksgiving to you all and God bless you all.” Linda Gregoire

Editor’s note: As we enter the holiday season of giving, please remember to give a financial contribution in the amount that works for you on “Giving Tuesday”, November 28. Give a donation to your favorite non-profit organization or consider giving to John and Linda’s non-profit, Hope-JG. Hope-JG is dedicated to helping families living with ALS and other neuromuscular diseases, live life to its fullest by leveraging existing world class technology, supporting technical innovation and biomedical research.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jordan-Small Middle School “adopts” a school hit by the hurricanes in the U.S. Virgin Islands by Jennifer Davis

The Sprauve School prior to hurricane damage
This year has brought with it many devastating storms that have affected many parts of our country. One area that was hit especially hard was the Virgin Islands. Although the storm itself is gone, these areas still need help to recover. Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond is offering that help by “adopting” the Julius E. Sprauve School on the island of St. John in the United States Virgin Islands. 
The Sprauve school is home to 350 students, grades K-8.  During Hurricane Irma, the Sprauve School was heavily damaged. The damages worsened when Hurricane Maria passed through the island a week later. The school was so damaged, that the students had to miss over a month of classes while the school made repairs. As of today, the school has reopened but the students must do split sessions, as parts of the school still remain unusable. Of the damages, many if not all of the school supplies were destroyed. Crockett, Principal at Jordan Small Middle School along with Kelly Crockett and another colleague wanted to find a way to help. Having visited St. John on several occasions, Randy and Kelly Crockett had a personal interest in helping. “We wanted [to] find a way to let the staff at the Sprauve School know that people are aware of their needs; that they had not been forgotten,” Crockett said. 

After some work, the Jordan-Small Middle School Guidance Counselor was able to connect with someone at the Sprauve School to get the process going to adopt the school and help supply the school with much needed materials and supplies for the students. “Our goal is to have a box of supplies with notes from our students [delivered] to each of the classrooms at the Sprauve School before the holidays,” Crockett said.

Each year, Jordan-Small works on community service activities, and this year adopting the Sprauve
Sprauve School after hurricane damage
School is going to be the main event. The fifth graders at Jordan-Small are going to be at the heart of the project. The students have already made signs to promote the adoption of the school and they will play an integral part in sorting the supplies donated.  

As mentioned, the goal for Jordan-Small is to have a box of supplies delivered to each classroom before the holidays. The biggest struggle they are currently facing is getting these supplies to the Sprauve School.  

As of right now, they must choose between a very costly delivery or a very long delivery time.  The staff at Jordan-Small is looking for suggestions that will make the shipping of these supplies get to the staff and students in a timely, cost effective manner.

Jordan-Small Middle School will be accepting donated supplies as well as monetary donations through December 8th. Items to be donated can be brought directly to the Jordan-Small Middle School.  

Monetary donations should be made payable to the Raymond PTO and mailed directly to the Middle School at 423 Webbs Mills Road, Raymond, ME.  

If you have any questions on the items needed, please email Randy Crockett directly at will be another opportunity to donate in the future through Raymond Elementary School in January.  “It’s all geared toward the kids,” Crockett states. “We want to make sure that Sprauve School knows that they have not been forgotten.”

Be The Influence: A village that works together can move mountains by Lorraine Glowczak

Local youth have an active role in Be The Influence
It’s an African proverb that has gained popularity since the mid-1990s from the book title of the same name, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Be The Influence, a Windham/Raymond collaboration of individuals and organizations that work together to reduce substance abuse in the community is a successful example of that proverb.

The concept of Be The Influence (BTI) began in March 2014 as a group of Windham and Raymond community members joined forces to raise awareness and address the concerns of substance use and abuse. As a result of the Drug Free Community Federal Funding, the BTI coalition was officially formed and began to focus its attention on the youth within the community. BTI vision is to provide support and resources to students as well as communicate a consistent drug-free message, assuring students that they live in a community that cares about them.
The coalition is comprised of various members of the community that include: RSU14 staff and teachers, local law enforcement, town council members, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, prevention and counseling organizations, libraries as well as community and business organizations. 

Coalition members join forces because they want to make a difference and influence youth in positive ways.

“We work collaboratively to educate, engage and motivate the youth in making wise decisions and practicing healthy behaviors,” stated Laura Morris, BTI Director. 

Laura Kulaw, otherwise known as L.K., is a Heath Teacher at Jordan-Small Middle School and one of the many coalition members who also acts as a youth resource representative. She feels passionate about being a positive adult role model. “I believe kids need positive role models and direction,” stated L.K. “There is a lot of conflicting and misinformation out there regarding drug use and I want to help them sort it out with accurate facts.”
L.K. also stated that she enjoys educating students and having them get involved to make a difference too. “If we can educate and give them an active role, they can speak to their peers about the effects of substance abuse.”

Aimee Senatore, Executive Director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce (SLRCC) is also an active coalition member. “I am personally involved because I have young children nearing the middle school age and want to do my part,” Senatore explained. “I want to not only educate myself but empower myself and my children with the knowledge and skills we need to be a healthy and happy family. Professionally, it is part of the SLRCC’s mission to foster strong communities within the towns we represent. Protecting our youth from substance abuse has a direct impact on the quality of the workforce in the years to come and the health of our communities as a whole.” 

Windham Police Department Patrol Captain, Bill Andrew is also part of the BTI coalition. Andrew participates because he wants to collaborate with others in the community, providing a positive and consistent message to the youth. “As a police department, we want to provide the same message on the street that is provided in the classroom and beyond,” explained Andrew. “To do that, we work collaboratively with BTI and have police officers and drug experts speak to students on an interactive level in their Health Classes. It’s important for the students to see and speak to the officers on a personal level on issues such as drugs without feeling threatened.” Andrew encourages students to make wise decisions and to consider the long-term effects of drug and alcohol use. “Using drugs will affect a student’s academic success as well as their athletic abilities and other favorite extracurricular activities,” Andrew stated. “I encourage them to think about their future, three to five years from now, and where they hope to be. It is very important that they understand the impact drugs have on their brains.” 

Although there are many conflicting thoughts surrounding drug, and specifically marijuana use, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that marijuana use among teenagers and the effect it has on their developing brain is of major concern. The American Psychological Association (APA) confirms Andrew’s statement regarding the use of mind-altering drug use and the developing brain.

Most experts agree that the fully developed brain occurs around the age of 25 (some say 21). As a result, the brain is still “under construction” and studies indicate that drug and alcohol use have an effect on that developing brain.

According to the APA, marijuana shows some promise for treating medical conditions. However, “At least some of those benefits are thought to come from cannabidiol, a chemical component of the marijuana plant not thought to produce mind-altering effects. But there's a lot left to learn about this and other chemical compounds in marijuana. What's clear, however, is that marijuana's signature high comes from a psychoactive component known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). And evidence is mounting that THC is not risk-free.”

The above study also indicates that, “heavy marijuana use in adolescence or early adulthood has been associated with a dismal set of life outcomes including poor school performance, higher dropout rates, increased welfare dependence, greater unemployment and lower life satisfaction.” 
There are many ways one can get involved and make a difference in the life of the Windham/Raymond youth. “It’s a community effort,” Andrew stated regarding the importance of becoming a coalition team member. “From the Police Department to the school board to various businesses – it takes all of us to make a healthy community.”

Any individual or organization can become a coalition member. All it takes is a passion to make a positive impact, no matter your area of expertise. “It takes a village, and anyone can make a difference,” Morris said. “Your expertise and interest can move mountains.”

To learn more, check out the BTI website at or contact Morris at

Friday, November 10, 2017

Monetary donations needed to provide healthy meals for Windham/Raymond students by Lorraine Glowczak

Only monetary donations accepted in order to ensure nutritional items and menus are similarly based
Nearly 40 percent of the students in the Windham/Raymond schools receive free or reduce-priced meals as a result of their family’s financial challenges. The students are provided these meals during the school year. 
However, the weekends and school and summer vacations prove to be more difficult for these same students whose meals are not provided to them on a regular basis. A few of the RSU#14 staff are working together to do something about these challenges, through efforts of two programs, the Backpack Program and the Village Fund.
Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro, RSU#14 Chef and Nutrition Coordinator and Marge Govoni, School Board Member and Coordinator of both programs, are working together to help serve the students in need. “Research indicates that children who grow up in food insecure households often lag behind in terms of cognitive, emotional, and physical development,” explained Cowens-Gasbarro. “We want to help those students succeed.”

The Backpack Program began in the 2011-12 school year and is specific for the elementary school children. It provides foods to supplement children in need over the weekends and school vacations during the school year. “This program was previously funded by donations from Hannaford’s and members of the community,” explained Govoni. “A few years ago the donations from Hannaford’s ended. In order to continue to serve 150 children each weekend during the school year, we need more members of the community to support our program. We are reaching out to local businesses asking for additional sponsors to this program.” Our major contributor presently is Windham Weaponry and their employees.

When the program began six years ago, it provided meals for approximately 50 students. This has increased in number, with 150 elementary students from both Windham and Raymond schools being served.
The Backpacks contain a breakfast, lunch and dinner options as well as snacks. They are discreetly distributed to the students by teachers or staff in each school and are packed every Tuesday by volunteers at either Windham Middle School or Windham Primary School. Only monetary donations are accepted to ensure the nutritional items and menus are similarly based and meet the needs of the child. 

The Village Fund Program is a program specifically geared to the high school students. Beginning as a grant for food insecure students that could not afford to buy lunch, the program became the Village Fund in 2015. “In the past, high school staff members have given their own money to help students, who are food insecure, buy lunch,” stated Govoni. “We are hoping to take the financial burden off of the staff by raising money to put towards this fund.”
Govoni and Cowens-Gasbarro explained that by raising $2,000 for this upcoming school year, the program could provide 665 meals to students in need throughout the school year.

“A small donation would go a long way in this Village Fund considering each school lunch costs only $3.00 for a complete meal that includes main entrĂ©e, fruit, vegetable and milk,” stated Cowens-Gasbarro. 

One hundred percent of the donations go toward both programs and no administrative cost or fees are applied.

There is a quote that states, “Small acts, when multiplied by a number of people, transform the world.” Help transform the lives of the RSU#14 students whose lives can be made a little easier with a nutritional meal that is not always available to them. Govoni said “We cannot make these programs work without the help of our very generous businesses, organizations and residents of Windham and Raymond. We are very grateful and cannot thank those who have contributed monetary donations or volunteer their time to help make these programs successful.” 

If you would like more information on one or both of these programs, contact Cowens-Gasbarro at or Marge Govoni at Cowens-Gasbarro can be reached by phone at 892-1800, ext. 2029 and Govoni at 892-7192. make a donation, ensuring that the food insecure children of the Windham and Raymond communities are nourished and well fed, mail check or money order noting which program you are donating too, to the following address: School Nutrition Program, Attn: Samantha Cowens- Gasbarro, 228 Windham Center Road, Windham,04062.

Windham family experiences the real meaning of Veterans Day by Lorraine Glowczak

Lea Hennigar, friend Shiba and daughter Brooklyn
On Sunday, October 29 Lea Hennigar of Windham and her daughter, Brooklynn along with their friend, Shiba welcomed World War II and Korean War Veterans at the Portland Jetport as they returned home from an Honor Flight Trip to Washington D.C.
“I wanted to show my daughter what Veterans Day really stands for,” explained Hennigar. “It’s not only a day off, it is a day of true honor for the troops of the past and future; it is the respect we hold in our hearts for the freedom we have.”

The Honor Flight Network Program was the idea of a retired Air Force Captain, Earl Morse who wanted to provide opportunities to veterans by giving them a chance to see the memorials in Washington D.C. that are dedicated in their honor. 

The first Honor Flight took place in May 2005 from Springfield, Ohio where 12 World War II Veterans were given the chance to see the World War II Memorial. 

Since then, the Honor Flight Network has expanded to include other areas and local hubs. Honor Flight Maine is part of that network and is the non-profit organization that provided the trip for the veterans returning to Maine on October 29.
Hennigar learned of this program through a friend of her mother’s, who got to participate on an Honor Flight in 2014. 

He is now 92 years old and still to this day he speaks of this experience,” Hennigar explained. “He encourages anyone and everyone to be a part of this; for the honor that he felt was incredible and the journey of memory lane [and] his fellow comrades, was touching, sentimental and a true life touching experience.”

Hennigar’s daughter and her friend also felt honored to be a part of such a memorable and somewhat emotional event, making a welcome sign as the Maine vets returned. “People took their hats off, shook hands, wore red, white and blue,” Hennigar continued. “The tears of these men and woman were touching.”

As stated on the Honor Flight Network website, an estimated 640 World War II Veterans die each day. As a result, the program will continue do whatever it can to fulfill the dreams of the veterans helping them travel to and see the memorials in their honor for free.

Subsequent to the World War II Veterans, efforts will then focus on the Korean War and then Vietnam War Veterans, honoring them similarly. 

For more information about Honor Flight Maine, email at or call at 207-370-7210. 

Remember to honor the veterans this Saturday, November 11 by attending the Veterans Day Program and Open House, hosted by Windham Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10643. The event will begin at 11 a.m. and the public is invited to attend. Refreshments will be provided.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Second annual Fall Festival at Windham Primary was a fun family event by Jennifer Davis

Saturday, October 28, Windham Primary School held its second annual Fall Festival from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. which welcomed many members of the community, both young and old.  Michelle Jordan, Volunteer Coordinator, led the event.
This year’s festival featured many activities including: face painting, crafts, a scarecrow contest, pumpkin decorating, selfie booth and a scavenger hunt. The atmosphere was inviting as music from D. J. Dave welcomed all who arrived. “I am so excited for this event,” said Lincoln Davis, first grader at Windham Primary School. “I like the leaf pools the best.”  

People in attendance found activities occurring throughout the school building and the playground. The dunking station was a hit attraction as people gathered to watch Corey McAllister, Primary School Secretary and Dr. Kyle Rhoads, Primary School Principal, get soaked. With every successful hit, laughter could be heard all around from the crowd of people who had gathered.  I get really excited for the event because families are having fun and staff and parents volunteering are having fun, too,” Rhoads said.  “The afternoon flies by!”

Inside the cafeteria, the PTO was set up with a bake sale and free apple cider and popcorn was available for everyone. were also about 10 tables setup to welcome pumpkin decorators that included many pumpkins to choose from, big and small.  Paisley, a kindergartener at Windham Primary, was there with her dad, David and brother Charlie. She did not have much to say, but her smile while she was decorating her pumpkin spoke volumes to the amount of fun she was having at this event.

Windham Public Library was present at the event and there was also a scarecrow contest.  The winner to the scarecrow contest will be announced at the end of this week. 

Outside, attendees could find selfie- boards set up to take pictures that would act as a reminder of the event and the great time that was had by all.  

Neighbors, friends, classmates, and co-workers mingled together creating a strong feeling of community. There were approximately 30 volunteers that came together to make this year’s event possible. year’s festival is already in the works, which is always made possible by the multitude of sponsors who donate time and money. 

We will soon discuss as a committee how to improve the event,” stated Rhoads. “We want it to be bigger and better each year and be a true school community event!”

Local marathon swimmer proves it’s never too late to live your dreams by Matt Pascarella

Pat Gallant-Charette
Pat Gallant-Charette is not your typical 66-year-old grandmother. Not only is she a marathon swimmer, but she is a six-time world record-breaking marathon swimmer.
Last month, she spoke to students at Windham Middle School about being stereo-typed for being “too old” to do some of the things she’s done. She proved you are never too old to go after the things you want.

A Westbrook resident, Pat Gallant-Charette did not aim to become a marathon swimmer, or even a swimmer, until later in life. 

“[People] ask how I got into swimming, and it’s really kind of a remarkable story,” Gallant-Charette began. “I was a good swimmer as a teenager, got married at 21 and started having children. Then I got my BA in nursing and worked as a nurse.”

It was after tragedy that the idea of swimming came about. “My youngest brother, Robbie, at the age of 34, died suddenly…of a heart attack,” Gallant-Charette continued. “At the time, I was 46 and was absolutely devastated. He was such a remarkable young man. Robbie loved swimming; he was the captain of the Northeastern University Swim Team and won Peaks to Portland twice.” the time, her 16-year-old son was on the Westbrook High School swim team and she considered herself a spectator mom while she cheered on her son at swim meets. He decided to swim the Peaks to Portland as a tribute to his uncle and she wished she could do the same. “You can if you try,” her son said to her.
Her son’s remark inspired Gallant-Charrette, but it took effort and courage to reach that goal. “You get filled with a lot of self-doubt about your swimming ability,” Gallant-Charette said. “I didn’t like swimming in the ocean. I spooked easily. I’m only going to do [this] one time, and that’s it. I trained, it took me over a year before I even qualified.”

Then she qualified for the Peaks to Portland, she recalls the day in detail: “I remember standing on the island, here I was 47, and filled with self-doubt, I’m looking at all these young, slender athletes and I’m thinking, ‘Pat, what the heck did you get yourself into?’ Then I said to myself, ‘I don’t care if I come in last. You’re here as a tribute to Robbie. Just finish the swim because it’s the last time you ever have to swim in the ocean again.’”

Something happened on that first swim in the Atlantic. “As I was swimming across Casco Bay, something special happened that morning. I saw the beauty of Fort Gorges… a lobster boat went by and the seagulls up above, and it was just incredible. It was beautiful! Any fear [of open water] was gone, and all those young fast swimmers were probably at the finish line, so I didn’t have to worry about [competing against them]. And when I finished, my brother, Robbie’s widow and her now 4-year-old son greeted me at the finish line. I said to my husband, ‘I really enjoyed this, I’m going to do it again.’”

She continued on with the Peaks to Portland swim on an annual basis and by the time she reached the age of 52, Gallant-Charette noticed that her endurance improved significantly. “I was stunned,” Gallant Charette stated. “I didn’t think I could improve at the age of 52.” 

Gallant-Charette decided to swim Sebago Lake which is twice the distance of Peaks to Portland. When she finished, she wasn’t tired. After another year of training and swimming across Big Sebago and back, she told her husband, “I think I’m one of those endurance athletes.” Her husband suggested she swim the English Channel. Gallant-Charette thought that was a great idea. did swim the English Channel but it took a lot of self-coaching and training. In August 2001, she jumped in and swam the channel. Gallant-Charette shares a moment from that swim. “It was about the 16th hour of the English Channel and I could see France, and I said to myself ‘I don’t care how cold this water is, I’m going to make that finish line! And I did. Once I saw France, it was like, the worst is behind you, what’s another 2 miles?’”

For the fourth time since she turned 60, Pat has been selected as one of the nominees for the Women’s World Open Water Swimmer of the Year. She is among 12 nominees worldwide. Says Gallant-Charrette, “To be among these talented women I feel very humbled and honored.”

For the time being, it seems Gallant-Charette is enjoying the ride - or the swim rather. She doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. “I really love the sport of open water swimming. My pet peeve is when people say, ‘when are you retiring?’ I have no intention of retiring from this sport. My intent is to bring this as far as I can.”