Showing posts with label Fundraiser. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fundraiser. Show all posts

Friday, March 15, 2024

Country star Michael Ray performs at Erik’s Church to raise money for The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital

By Melissa Carter

Nearly 300 people gathered at Erik’s Church over the course of two days, March 5 and March 6, to take in the inspiring acoustics of Warner Music Nashville recording artist Michael Ray and raise funds for The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital of Portland.

Warner Music Nashville recording artist Michael
Ray performs at Erik's Church in Windham to
raise funds for the Barbara Bush Children's 
Hospital of Portland.
The concert was presented by Country 99.9 The Wolf radio for the third consecutive year and featured special guests Ashley Cooke on Tuesday and Meghan Patrick on Wednesday. The community came together to bring in a jaw-dropping $38,000 between donations, ticket sales and live auction for tickets to see Tim McGraw in Boston.

Kenny Cianchette, the owner of Erik’s Church, expressed his gratitude for having a venue capable of giving people a chance to come together for a good cause and experience an intimate night of fun and good music at the same time. Cianchette hosts various fundraising events throughout the year and said it’s just one of the reasons that he absolutely loves what he does being in the business.

Before taking the stage on March 6, Ray answered a few questions during an interview.

His humble demeanor was like talking to an old friend instead of someone who has traveled the country and played on renowned stages like the Grand Old Opry over 75 times.

Ray said this was not his first visit to Maine, but that he hasn’t really had the chance to explore the beauty here like he wants to and hopes to experience the many outdoor recreation opportunities that he loves here like hunting and fishing.

According to Ray, he was inspired by country music since he was a very young boy, having had the influence of his grandfather Amos who played guitar and formed a family country band. It was Amos that taught Ray to play guitar at the age of 9 and he began writing his own songs when he was 11.

In describing his creative writing process, Ray had to stop and think for a minute. “It kind of just comes in waves,” he said. “When I am touring, I am solely focused on performing, but when I get down time, I find that through conversations, experiences and dreams the words and rhythms just come to me.”

He said he has a bank of more than 100 unreleased songs and there is no end in sight.

Ray has performed with many big names in country music but said one of his personal favorite tours was “Higher Education” with friends and idols Kid Rock, Lee Brice, Tim Montana and Billy Gibbons. He said he would love to collaborate with Gary Allen someday as he has looked up to him since his early days of learning to play guitar and that his music always spoke to him.

Aside from playing with Gary Allen, Ray is hoping to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry and to start a family. For now, his basset hound Bo is the one who welcomes him to his Georgia home when gets breaks, which is only for about two months a year. On his down time, he enjoys grilling in his backyard and getting outdoors hunting turkey and duck.

He says the best advice he’s ever been given is “Trust your gut, trust the process.”

When Ray went on stage at Erik’s Church, he captivated the audience with his relatable lyrics and stories and showcased such genuine talent. His heartfelt performance and overall realness was something felt by all who attended the show.

Ray expressed his love of this region and of Erik’s Church for its hometown feel. He said the outpouring of community support here is evident and there is nothing he loves more than being able to bring people together through music to raise money for a good cause.

“That is what country music is about,” he said, “It’s about community, connection, and giving back. Playing on a small stage like Erik’s Church is a nice change, a chance to just kind of ‘shoot from the hip’ and be myself.” <

Friday, February 23, 2024

Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby anglers overcome challenge to assist charities

By Ed Pierce

For the second consecutive year, a lack of ice on Sebago Lake couldn’t ruin the fun for participants in the annual Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18.

Travis Sparks of Bowdoin, left, finished in first place in the
Pickerel competition during the Cumberland County Ice
Fishing Derby sponsored by the Sebago Lake Rotary Club
on Feb. 17-18. Shanna Hudgin of Poland, right, was the
winner of the Perch competition. SUBMITTED PHOTOS
Moving to some of the 20-plus remaining lakes and ponds in the outlying area with adequate ice to ensure for their safety, participants fishing in the annual Cumberland County contest sponsored by the Sebago Lake Rotary Club found an abundance of perch and pickerel readily available and waiting to be caught.

This was the 23rd year for the Ice Fishing Derby and despite warmer temperatures preventing the buildup of ice on Sebago Lake again this year, the popular contest proved yet again to be more than just an excuse to get outside for time spent fishing. Proceeds from the Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby benefit local charities and nonprofit organizations that the Rotary Club donates to, including “Feed the Need,” which assists with funding for 12 different food pantries throughout the Lakes Region of Maine.

Participants found that searching for suitable ice was challenging but the event brought together people from all walks of life, helping forge new friendships among those fishing and leaving them with great stories to tell about their experiences that probably will be shared over the course of their lifetimes.

The warm temperatures and subsequent cancelation of contest fishing on Sebago Lake held down the overall number of registered participants compared to numbers registered in previous colder years, but many dedicated fishermen did sign up for the event, said Cyndy Bell of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club.

Bell said in keeping with tradition from years past, many participating fishermen donated their catches which were then delivered to Nova Seafood to be processed and delivered to assist in feeding the homeless and those facing food insecurity in the Lakes Region.

The Ice Fishing Derby concept itself is credited to Tom Noonan, a Sebago Lake Rotary Club member, who came up with the idea in 2001 in cooperation with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.

Since then, the event has grown substantially to become the Sebago Lake Rotary Club’s largest annual fundraising initiative and has supported hundreds of charities over the past two decades, with more than $1 million donated to local causes.

“Under the leadership of Sebago Lake Rotarian Toby Pennels, the derby gained additional national notoriety as one of only four fishing derbies in the United States to be featured in a television program filmed for the National Geographic Channel that aired in June 2014,” Bell said.

An Otter Ice Shelter for the event was donated by Sebago Bait’s Rick Boutot. An Ice sled was donated by Sebago Bait’s Shannon Hallgren and a shelter for Ice Fishing Derby participants was donated by Cabela's Sam Eckle.

Here are the 2024 Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby winners –

Top Prize Winners

The winner of the $5,000 cash grand prize was John Godbout.

Stephen Tufts won the 50/50 raffle drawing of $640.


First place: Travis Sparks of Bowdoin, 3.9 pounds, 25 1/4 inches

Second place: Adam Bryant, 3.86 pounds, 27 inches

Third place: Peter Reinhard, 3.66 pounds, 24 1/2 inches


First place: Shanna Hudgin of Poland, 1.74 pounds, 15 3/4 inches

Second place: Mark Plowman, 1.57 pounds, 14 inches

Third place: Greg LaChance, 1.56 pounds, 13.75 inches <

Friday, February 24, 2023

Polar Dip participants plunge into Sebago Lake

By Ed Pierce

It takes a special mentality to fully appreciate the benefits of diving into 33-degree water, but more than three dozen individuals tried it out last Saturday when they plunged into chilly Sebago Lake as part of the annual Polar Dip off Raymond Beach.

A team from Hannaford Supermarket in Standish braves the
icy waters of Sebago Lake during the Polar Dip fundraiser
to benefit food pantries across the Lakes Region on Feb. 18
near Raymond Beach. More than $5,000 was raised by
participants at the event. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
Sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the popular event is the largest fundraiser staged every year for “Feed the Need,” an initiative that donates to 12 different food pantries in the Lakes Region of Maine.

Some of the participants jumped into the lake while wearing costumes and others participated as part of teams representing clubs, organizations, or businesses. But everyone jumping into Sebago Lake for the Polar Dip agreed upon one thing – how cold the water was.

“It’s really freezing,” said Abigail Cormier, 15, a student at Bonny Eagle High School. “I expected where we jumped in to be deeper, but the water was unbelievably cold.”

Cormier, a sophomore, was part of a team of students called the “Mother Teresa Club” which leaped into Sebago Lake on Saturday after hearing about the event from members of the school’s Key Club.

Chamber organizers had put out the word earlier this month seeking student teams to participate and the group of jumpers on Saturday included two different teams from Windham High School.

Staging the Polar Dip off Raymond Beach turned out to be a significant undertaking.

A hole was cut in the lake ice about 200 yards off Raymond Beach on the Wednesday prior to the fundraiser and Polar Dip officials expected shelf ice to expand as temperatures dropped to about 18 degrees the night before the event was scheduled to take place. The shelf ice at that location was between 3 and 4 inches when the hole was originally cut, but several days of warmer weather rising to almost 52 degrees later in the week prevented further ice formation and resulted in the loss of about an inch of ice before the fundraiser.

To assure everyone’s safety, the heating trailers for participants were kept on shore and only the teams jumping were led out on the ice and then brought back to the shoreline.

“Saturday was certainly eventful. Usually, we can all go out to the hole and watch the jumpers and the heated trailers are right there to change in,” said Robin Mullins, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. “Not this year. I had to walk each team out individually to keep the weight on the ice low.”

Mullins said the Polar Dip typically has one or two Cumberland County Sherriff’s deputies from the dive team suited up in case of an emergency, but this year there were two from deputies and two from the Raymond Fire Department.

“The ice did break up a bit, but it managed to stay together enough to get all 10 teams, or 35 jumpers, into the water,” Mullins said. “The good thing was the water was only about 3 feet deep, so if anyone went in unexpectedly it wasn't too deep.”

Mullins says that preliminary figures from the event show that it raised $5,000 for Fed the Need.

“The word that comes to mind for me this year is community. The Sebago Lake Polar Dip raises money for the Sebago Lake Region Charitable Trust or what we call Feed the Need,” she said. “The trust donates money annually to the 12 food pantries in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.”

According to Mullins, this is the third year that the chamber has conducted the Polar Dip and up until this year, it’s usually the same organizations participating.

“This year the Mental Health Advocacy Club from Windham High School challenged other clubs at WHS as well as the other high schools in our region, Gray New Gloucester, Lake Region, and Bonny Eagle,” she said. “The WHS Student Council and the Bonny Eagle Key Club both stepped up to meet that challenge. It was so good to see the friendly competition from our young residents for such a great cause. Food insecurity is real and it is an issue even in our region.”

This year’s Polar Dip included teams from Hannaford Supermarket in Standish, the Optimist Club in Gray-New Gloucester, Bangor Savings Bank in Windham, a family from Gray, Team Poulin, Busy Bee Laundry in Windham, Terry Stackhouse from WMTW, and the highest fundraising team from Alchemy Chiropractic office in Falmouth.

“How appropriate that our Signature Sponsor this year was Maine Community Bank. We’re so grateful for their continued support of the chamber,” Mullins said. “A huge thank you to George Bartlett and David Mair from Busy Bee Laundry and Nathan White and his team from the Town of Raymond for all the help with set-up and take down of the event. Lastly, the crews from Cumberland and Raymond Fire and Rescue were amazing. It is all thanks to them that all of the jumpers were able to take the plunge safely.” <

Friday, February 17, 2023

Polar Dip participants prepare for leap into Sebago Lake


By Ed Pierce

Determined ice fishing enthusiasts will have to alter their plans some, but the Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby remains on after officials canceled the Sebago Lake portion of the event because of unsafe ice conditions earlier this week.

Jason Abildgaard of Raymond Public Works uses a chain saw
to cut through the ice on Sebago Lake in preparation for
Saturday's Polar Dip event sponsored by the Sebago Lakes
Region Chamber of Commerce to raise money for area
food pantries. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
With a Grand Prize of $5,000 available, the annual event, sponsored by the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, has grown through the years to become one of the most popular fishing derbies in Maine each winter. Milder temperatures this year have left Sebago Lake ice thinner than usual with the currently ice depth stands between just 4 and 6 inches.

With thousands expected to be out fishing on Sebago Lake this weekend, derby officials could not ensure participant safety and recommended fishermen and families find other nearby lakes with thicker ice as part of the Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby.

One big event that will still take place on Sebago Lake on Saturday is the Polar Dip, sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce as a fundraiser for food pantries throughout the Lakes Region.

The Polar Dip currently has about 16 teams of jumpers confirmed for Saturday and about 35 people total lined up so far to dive into Sebago Lake. The jumpers will be diving into an 8- by 30-foot hole cut into the ice about 300 feet off Raymond Beach starting at noon Saturday.

George Bartlett, who heads up the staging for the Polar Dip every February, said that the lack of ice has moved the event closer to the shoreline this time.

“The temperature on Friday night is expected to get down to about 10 degrees,” Bartlett said. “If we are at about 4 inches right now, with the thermometer dropping that low, we could add as much as 2 more inches of ice by Saturday morning.”

Polar Dip participants receive pledges to brave the freezing lake waters and last year more than $10,000 was raised for “Feed the Need” which provides financial assistance for food pantries in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.

The Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby is in its 22nd year in 2023 and despite participants not being able to fish on Sebago Lake, the Rotary reminds everyone that there are more than 20 other lakes available in Cumberland County to fish on. The fishing derby runs Feb. 18 and Feb. 19 with hundreds of perch and pickerel fish pool prizes and community gift cards drawings up for grabs.

The Sebago Lake Rotary Club uses proceeds from the Ice Fishing Derby for charitable donations across the community throughout the year. 2023 Derby sweatshirts will be on sale this weekend at each of the weigh stations and fish collected will be sent for processing and donated to local food pantries.

Last year more than 800 participants tried their luck in fishing holes all over Sebago Lake and fishing ponds across Cumberland County. Fewer fish were caught in 2022 as fishermen mentioned the togue out of Sebago seemed to be thinner and fewer were biting.

But derby fishermen continued to donate much of what they were able to catch. Those donations were delivered to Nova Seafood in Portland for processing and then delivered to assist in feeding the homeless and those facing food insecurity.

According to Cyndy Bell of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, the exact number and weight of fish donated from the derby was about 7,500 pounds of fish which was collected, flash-frozen and donated to food pantries in the Greater Portland area.

The credit for coming up with the idea for the annual Ice Fishing Derby is Tom Noonan, a Sebago Lake Rotary Club member, who proposed staging the contest in 2001 in cooperation with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department.

Since then, the event has grown substantially to become the Sebago Lake Rotary Club’s largest annual fundraising initiative and has supported hundreds of charities over the past two decades, with more than $1 million donated to local causes since its inception. The derby gained additional national notoriety as one of only four fishing derbies in the United States to be featured in a television program filmed for the National Geographic Channel that aired in June 2014.<

Friday, February 25, 2022

Polar Dip participants brave frozen Sebago Lake to benefit 'Feed the Need'

A team from The Windham Eagle newspaper was one of many
groups to dive into Sebago Lake during the Polar Dip event
on Feb. 19 sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of
Commerce to raise money for 'Feed the Need,' an organization
that assists food pantries in the area. From left are Margo
Burnham, Collette Hayes, Melissa Carter and Marion Duyck.
By Collette Hayes

Adventurous Mainers demonstrated their spirit, courage, and tenacity last Saturday as they jumped into the icy waters of Sebago Lake for “Feed the Need.”

Hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the 2nd Annual Sebago Lake Polar Dip was held on Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach last Saturday. This year, with 12 teams participating, just under $9,000 has been pledged to benefit local food pantries in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.

According to Robin Mullins, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, there are still additional donations that have not been received yet. Once all pledges have been turned in, a grand total will be calculated, and this year’s proceeds will be donated to “Feed the Need” which provides support for local food pantries in the area.

“Our biggest fundraising team this year was The Even Keel Committee,” said Mullins. “The team was instrumental in raising $4,000 in donations. Each team member will receive a $40 gift card from Hannaford Supermarket.”

Being accustomed to cold water can be done by swimming in it at least once a week and gradually extending the time in the water and members of the Even Keel team said that they swim in the ocean throughout the year. Some members swim daily in the ocean for at least 10 minutes which is ideal training for the Polar Dip event, they said.

Even Keel Committee Member Peggy Armstrong said that the team took pledges for how long they could stay in the near-freezing 33-degree waters of Sebago Lake. Dressed in colorful costumes, the team kicked off the Polar Dip event by plunging into the lake where ice was carefully removed for the event and for 10 minutes they played a lively game of water basketball.

A foreign exchange student attending Windham High School, Marion Duyck, heard about the Polar Dip earlier this month and decided she wanted to try it.

Duyck, a senior from Thuin, Belgium, said she had never done anything like this before.

“I just wanted to experience what doing something like this is all about,” Duyck said. “There is nothing like this in my country. It was really nice and everyone here at the event on the lake was positive and cheerful. The water we jumped into was pretty cold but it wasn’t all that bad. I’d probably do this again.”

Margo Burnham, one of the family members that manages the Wind in Pines Resort in Raymond said that she would definitely participate again next year.

In 2021, Burnham began participating in ocean dips in the spring and fall with a group of women in Camden. She says that she was drawn to it because it was a fun challenge as well as an opportunity to meet and socialize with friends.

During the winter months, Burnham has dipped a time or two into the chilly ocean waters for about a 10-minute swim which she found to be invigorating and enjoyable.

“I loved the cause for the Polar Dip and when invited by a Windham Eagle staff writer to participate, I was excited to team up and to be a support. It is truly inspiring to see a community of people come together to support a common cause,” said Burnham. “The event was festive and fun having an announcer and a countdown for those jumping. I was completely inspired and awed by The Even Keel Committee team. For novices it made a person aware that it can be manageable to be in very cold water for an extended period of time if an individual finds themselves in that situation.”

Recently Burnham was instrumental in helping to save the driver of an ATV that had plunged through the ice on South Pond. The driver had been submerged in the freezing water for over 10 minutes while he was waiting to be rescued.

“I thought he would be frozen,” said Burnham. “With assistance he climbed out of the water and then was able to walk back to the shoreline. Your body can tolerate cold for a lot longer than I thought, especially if you don’t panic.”

To ensure the safety for those participating in the Polar Dip, emergency medical personnel were on hand from the Raymond Fire and Rescue Department as were divers from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. Volunteer crews directed traffic into the Raymond Beach Boat Launch off Route 302 so participants and their families could park safely.

Mullins said on behalf of the entire Sebago Lakes Region Chamber team she wanted to thank all of those participating in this year’s Polar Dip and all the volunteers for helping make the event so exciting. It was just the second time that the Chamber has hosted the Polar Dip.

She said volunteers were instrumental in setting up the event as well as donating heated trailers to keep those participating warm before and after their scheduled jump. <

2022 Ice Fishing Derby thrills anglers

Caleb Slocum of North Yarmouth caught the largest togue
during the 2022 Sebago Lake and Cumberland County Ice
Fishing Derby last weekend. Slocum's first-place catch
from Sebago Lake weighed in at 15.86 pounds and 
measured 36.5 inches in length. PHOTO BY BRIAN BOYT
By Ed Pierce

A few hours of braving the cold and icy conditions together during the Sebago Lake and Cumberland County Ice Fishing Derby last weekend helped forge new friendships among anglers and created some stories that undoubtably will be shared for a lifetime.

Sponsored by the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, the 21st year of the ice fishing derby was more than just an excuse to get outside for time spent fishing, it also was yet another successful fundraiser for charities and nonprofit organizations that the Rotary Club donates to, including “Feed the Need,” which assists with funding for 13 food pantries in the Lakes Region of Maine.

More than 800 participants tried their luck in fishing holes all over Sebago Lake and fishing ponds across Cumberland County this year in the derby as temperatures across the region dipped into the mid-20s with a light drizzle as the weekend progressed.

“There were fewer fish caught this year as fishermen mentioned the togue out of Sebago seemed to be thinner and fewer biting,” said Cyndy Bell of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club. “But contributions of fish from Sebago and all other lakes and ponds in Cumberland County were still top of mind for fishermen.”

Bell said that derby registrations have dipped about 20 percent for the past few years but attributed that to the fact that 38 other derbies were held in Maine this year on the exact same date.

“The free fishing weekend might have contributed to the increased number of derbies that weekend,” Bell said. 

Nevertheless, fishermen continued to donate their catches which were delivered to Nova Seafood and will be processed and delivered to assist in feeding the homeless and those facing food insecurity. 

Bell said that the exact number and weight of fish donated from the derby was still being compiled, but last year a total of 7,500 pounds of fish was collected, flash-frozen and donated to food pantries in the Greater Portland area.

Tom Noonan, a Sebago Lake Rotary Club member, is credited with coming up with the concept for the Ice Fishing Derby in 2001 in cooperation with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department. 

Since then, the event has grown substantially to become the Sebago Lake Rotary Club’s largest annual fundraising initiative and has supported hundreds of charities over the past two decades, with more than $1 million donated to local causes since its inception.

“Under the leadership of Sebago Lake Rotarian Toby Pennels, the derby gained additional national notoriety as one of only four fishing derbies in the United States to be featured in a television program filmed for the National Geographic Channel that aired in June 2014,” Bell said.

Here’s a list of winners from the 2022 Sebago Lake and Cumberland County Rotary Ice Fishing Derby:

Top Prize winners

Grand Prize winner, Alex Sparks of Saco, Windham PowerSports ATV

50/50 winner, Lisa Thibault, $1,915

5HP Mercury Outboard winner, Alan Rouillard of Buxton 


First place, Caleb Slocum, 15.86 pounds, 36.5 inches

Second place, Jonathan Sarbins, 10.55 pounds, 30.5 inches

Third place, Andrew Dalton, 9.80 pounds, 32 inches


First place, Greg Lachance, 1.54 pounds, 14.5 inches

Second place, Michael Breton, 1.42 pounds, 13.5 inches

Third place, Joseph Libby, 1.36 pounds, 12 5/8 inches


First place, Devin Prue, 3.76 pounds, 25 ¼ inches

Second place, Bob Zutaut, 3.64 pounds, 24 inches

Third place, Brian Boucher, 3.5 pounds, 23 inches


First place, Ben Carlin, 9.48 pounds, 35 inches

Second place, Ben Carlin 8.8 pounds, 34 ¾ inches

Third place, Ben Carlin, 7.38 pounds, 31 inches

Ice Shack

First place, Tim O’Neal

2nd place, Sunset Paul Huchro
3rd place (tie), Dakota Dunphy
3rd place (tie), Becky Grooms <

Friday, January 21, 2022

Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip raising needed funds for food pantries

A team of jumpers from Hannaford dive into Sebago Lake
during the Polar Dip event offshore from Raymond Beach
last winter. The event raised more than $5,000 for 'Feed
the Need' which supports food pantries throughout the
Lakes Region of Maine. This year's Polar dip is scheduled
to be held on Feb. 19. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Collette Hayes

The Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip, an annual bone chilling event hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club, is seeking brave Mainers willing to plunge themselves into chilly Sebago Lake next month.

Community volunteers, swimmers, spectators, media and Raymond Fire and Rescue, dressed in thermal-insulated wet suits just in case of an emergency, will gather on the ice of Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach on Saturday, Feb. 19. They will cheer, provide team support, and participate in the countdown, as Polar Dip jumpers launch themselves into the frigid waters of Sebago Lake to raise needed funds for local food pantries.

The Polar Dip is one activity during the Fishing Derby activities held the same weekend. This year proceeds raised for both events will benefit “Feed the Need,” which provides support for local food pantries in the Sebago Lakes Region in Casco, Gray, Naples New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.

“George Bartlett from Busy Bee Laundry in Windham is a member of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club and wanted to bring the Polar Dip back as part of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Fishing Derby in 2021,” said Robin Mullins, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “I asked if the proceeds could benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber’s Charitable Fund or what we call ‘Feed the Need.’ Food security in the region is an issue and we need to do something about it. The whole premise behind the Polar Dip event is to be able to give money to the food pantries in the region.”

According to Mullins, participants will take pledges to take the plunge into a large rectangular hole cut into the foot-thick ice and 34-degree water of Sebago Lake.

“We would like to get as many people involved in the Polar Dip as possible,” Mullins said. “All of the proceeds raised from the event stays here in this community and provides security and food for those in need.”

For those who are not enthusiastic about leaping into the icy waters of Sebago Lake but still would like to make a donation can do so by going to the Sebago Lakes Chamber of Commerce website and choosing an alternative option.

“Information for participating in other ways is on the Chamber website,” said Mullins. “Donations can be made directly to Feed the Need or individuals can gather sponsors and then video a fun snow activity such as a snowball contest in PJs or filling a small pool outdoors and jumping into it.”

Once again this year, “The Even Keel Committee,” a group of five women from South Portland, are planning to participate in this year’s Polar Dip event. Last year, members of the group took pledges for how long they could stay in the lake during the event. Despite the cold temperature, they remained in the water for 10 minutes and were instrumental in raising $4,000 in donations.

According to Peggy Armstrong, an Even Keel Committee member, the group of five swim in the ocean throughout the year which is ideal training for the Polar Dip event. Members hope to once again raise funds this year to help support “Feed the Need.”

Two heated trailers will be provided for the participants. Polar Dip participants are advised to pack oversized jackets, warm drinks and towels. It is advised to wear some type of water shoe but not Crocs. When standing on the bottom of the lake, the mud has a tendency to pull them off.

“We’re excited to have heated trailers donated this year for those participating,” Mullins said. All jumps are scheduled so participants will have full access to the trailers to store their belongings during their scheduled jump time.

For those interested in participating in this year’s Polar Dip, jumpers must register at Participants will be given a specific jump time from noon to 3 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for “Best Costumes” and “Largest Fundraisers” for the Polar Dip. <

Friday, August 6, 2021

Grueling ‘Guardian Ride’ fundraiser nearing for Windham veteran


By Ed Pierce

Windham resident Brian McCarthy, a South Portland police
officer, will undertake a 360-mile trek on his mountain bike
from Windham to Moosehead Lake and back in an effort
to raise money for his former military unit, the 488th
Military Police Company based in Waterville. This is
the fourth summer that McCarthy has rode across Maine
on his 'Guardian Ride' to help fund programs that assist
families of soldiers serving overseas.
When Brian McCarthy had to deploy with his U.S. Army unit to serve in the Gulf War, the last thing he needed to worry about was the well-being of his wife Kristin and daughter Logan at home. McCarthy learned first-hand the peace of mind that organizations like the 488th Military Police Company’s Family Readiness Group give to soldiers serving overseas, helping families solve problems at home while their loved ones are miles away.

When McCarthy retired as an Army Sergeant First Class following a 20-year military career, he vowed to do whatever he could to help continue the important work of the 488th’s Family Readiness Group and in a few weeks, he’s going to embark on his fourth 350-mile “Guardian Ride” to raise money for the organization.

All money pledged to McCarthy during his summer bicycle ride is donated to the Family Readiness Group and are used for such things as the purchase of back-to-school supplies for military dependent children, a summer cookout for unit families and single soldiers alike with water sports and camping, a catered unit Christmas party with a visit from Santa, emergency relief funds for families in need, and for keeping unit families in touch with their loved ones stationed overseas.       

McCarthy, a South Portland police officer, will depart from the Windham Veterans Center for this year’s trip on Aug. 23 and hopes to return to Windham on Sunday, Aug. 29. Through three previous “Guardian Ride” trips across Maine, he’s raised more than $10,000 for the Family Readiness Group and will use a 23-year-old HARO mountain bike with an Allen Sports cargo trailer for his adventure.

“My route this year will be an out-and-back ride from Windham to Moosehead Lake and back, and possibly a loop route to Moosehead, then west to Jackman, and then home, depending upon what I see for road conditions,” said McCarthy, who is undertaking the trek while on vacation from his job as a South Portland police officer. “I’ve never been up there before, so much of my route reconnaissance depends on Google Street View images and studying elevation changes in the Delorme Gazeteer. The total mileage looks to be around 350 to 360 miles over seven days.”

According to McCarthy, the hardest part of each “Guardian Ride” is getting to each day’s portion of the trip.

“The finish line is a wonderful glowing vision, but the end of each day comes with very little fanfare and is fairly aptly described at times as a hasty retreat from the beating sun or cold rain,” he said. “I’m far from an elite athlete nor an accomplished cyclist, so 50-plus miles per day, towing a trailer along the hilly main streets and back roads of Maine, for seven straight days, is among the toughest physical challenges I’ve endured. And doing it alone makes for some long quiet days. But my cause, and my donors and supporters keep me motivated.”

For his efforts, McCarthy was presented with the 2021 American Legion’s Humanitarian Service Award in June at the Maine American Legion Convention in Brewer and said that he was deeply humbled by the honor.   

“Receiving the American Legion’s Humanitarian Service Award was a complete surprise to me,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t take on this endeavor for any personal recognition, so to be recognized by such a great group of veterans, patriots, and community volunteers was very humbling. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our Legionnaires and their history of service in and out of uniform. I’m very thankful to Dave Tanguay for the nomination and my Post 148 family for their support.”

Tanguay, the adjutant for Windham’s American Legion Field-Allen Post 148, says McCarthy is a good man and American legion member who is making a substantial difference for his former National Guard unit, the 488th Military Police Company based in Waterville.

“For the fourth consecutive year, Brian is taking personal time off from his duties in South Portland as a police officer to make a seven-day trek across Maine called the ‘Guardian Ride,’ on his mountain bike and trailer as a fundraiser for the unit’s Family Readiness Group and youth programs for deployed family members,” Tanguay said. “Over the last four summers, the American Legion Field-Allen Post has supported Brian as a base of operation and financially in support of his goal. We are looking forward to Aug. 23 to give Brian a rousing send-off on his latest trek.”

Support from Windham’s American Legion post and from his former military unit have boosted McCarthy’s spirit during his long solitary rides since he began the project.

I’ve received overwhelming and heartfelt support from my old unit, the 488th Military Police Company. I’m still in regular contact with current soldiers and leaders through social media, as well as unit alumni like myself,” McCarthy said. “They are extremely appreciative of not just my efforts on the bike, but also of the generosity of my donors and ride supporters.”

Stretching himself to the limit physically and mentally each day while on the ride, McCarthy said he stays focused on the underlying purpose of the fundraiser and the good things it does for others.

“When I deployed, I had a great deal of support from my family, not only in the form of emails and phone calls, but also in the knowledge and surety that they were secure in our home, in their schooling, jobs, etc. I was blessed with strong family supports,” he said. “I also knew that our unit’s Family Readiness Group had our back, just in case there was an unforeseen emergency or if something fell through the cracks. Additionally, my coworkers and community also rallied around me and my soldiers, keeping us well supported with care packages and cards, etc. With me taking on this ride every year, and raising not only funding, but also awareness of the FRG, is my own little way of giving back to the unit and its families behind the scenes.”

He said the “Guardian Ride” is important to him because he truly loves our soldiers and their families.

“Even more so, now that I’m out of uniform, I look at the hard work our National Guard ‘citizen soldiers’ do overseas and here at home, and I just feel like I need to show our appreciation,” McCarthy said. “And if I can help raise a few bucks for more burgers at the unit picnic, or more kayaks and tent sites at the unit family weekend, or a few more goodies in the back-to-school supplies, or a few more presents from Santa at the Christmas party, then it’s all worthwhile. I will do this ride every year as long as I’m able, and then maybe pass the torch to a fellow 488th alumnus. Ideally, I’d love to inspire a fellow retiree from each of Maine’s National Guard units to undertake their own versions of an FRG ride. I think that would be quite an event.”

To make a pledge to McCarthy for this year’s “Guardian Ride,” visit <

Friday, May 14, 2021

'Over the Edge' rapelling event to support veterans

The 'Over the Edge' event featuring sponsored participants
and teams rappelling down the side of the Key Bank
building in Portland will be conducted June 19 to raise
money for Veterans Count, an organization that assists 
veterans in Maine. COURTESY PHOTO  
By Ed Pierce

Having worn the uniform of the United States of America at one point in their lives or having grown up in a military family, two local men know first-hand the hardship and sacrifices made by veterans to keep our nation safe. As part of Veterans Count Maine, an organization that supports veterans causes statewide, Raymond attorney Todd Crawford and Windham resident Dennis Brown are gearing up for a unique fundraising event that will send participants “Over the Edge” in June.

The “Over the Edge” event is scheduled for June 19 and will see   sponsored participants rappelling down the side of the Key Bank building at Two Canal Plaza in Portland.

Crawford served in the U.S. Navy and the Maine Army National Guard, retiring from the guard as a commissioned officer after 28 years. Both he and Brown sit on the board of directors for Veterans Count and say they believe the “Over the Edge” fundraiser will raise awareness of the struggles some veterans face in Maine and raise money to fund programs that assist veterans.

“As a veteran, this program struck a chord with me and has helped me perpetuate ‘the mission’ of taking care of our troops,” Crawford said. “Veterans Count raises funds that fill the gaps where the VA or other community supports may be unable to support.  Working with Veterans Count is part of my mission to make our home a place worthy of their sacrifice.”

Each participant must raise $1,000 to go “over the edge” with the overall goal of raising about $90,000 by the end of the event.

According to Crawford, the public is encouraged to participate and show support for veterans either by sponsoring rappelers or coming out to cheer on participants at the event.

“I think the biggest issue that veterans face is reintegration,” Crawford said. “Communities have become decentralized over many years, so the usual social supports are not available to many returning veterans. Add to that the issues of trauma, silent injuries, and the loss of the military culture that make reintegrating home extremely difficult. Veterans Count is the fundraising arm of Easterseals Military and Veterans Services, which include a platoon of ‘Care Coordinators’ who are the real heroes in this story. They continue to search out homeless veterans, save lives by diverting suicide, and provide case management services to those in needs. In addition, funds are available the give veterans and their families a ‘hand up’ during critical times.  These issues have not diminished over the years.  We are still very much fighting to serve our veterans who have served our country.”

Brown is not a veteran himself but grew up the son of a World War II veteran during the Vietnam War and says that veterans are deserving of everyone’s support and especially through fundraising efforts like the “Over the Edge” event.

“This is the biggest fundraising event we have in this calendar year, and I wanted to be a part of it.  Military personnel in harm’s way experience a great deal of stress and uneasiness.  Going over the edge will let me experience for a few minutes what must have been constant for our military personnel and just anticipating what the first few seconds of going over will feel like is encouraging me to raise as much money for the cause as I can. I’m hoping to make sure that Veterans Count, Easterseals Maine’s Military and Veterans Services, has enough funds to address every need that presents itself and no vet or family is left hanging.”

He said that issues that veterans face daily in Maine are complex and challenging.

“There are many issues from PTSD, just adapting to civilian life after a long term in the service, Vietnam vets who were never offered the help we provide to more recent veterans, dealing with the VA,” Brown said. “Most veterans we see who are looking for help have more than just one problem.  Our care coordinators are outstanding in assessing the issues both with the veteran and their families.  We address family issues as much as the veteran themself.”

Maine started providing veterans services while Brown was board chair of Easterseals Maine about seven years ago.  

“One board member came to me with a veteran who needed help while we were just starting to consider adopting Veterans Count.  That veteran has been seriously injured in a training exercise that totally destroyed one of his knees.  He had been receiving disability benefits but was informed that the VA wanted to review his case, and that during the review, his disability payments would be stopped,” Brown said.  “When he asked how long the review would take, he was told that it would take six months to two years. The veteran then asked how he’d pay his rent for his home with his wife and 1-year-old child, the VA rep was trying to be helpful in offering that there’s a really good homeless shelter in Brunswick that he could recommend.  When I heard that, my immediate response was ‘not on my watch.’  We found some funds to provide Walmart gift cards for food and staples.  We also reached out to Easterseals NH who had started the Veterans Count program, learned that they had a care coordinator who lived in Maine that they would provide to help us out.  

“The care coordinator was great, explained to the veteran what he needed to do to prepare for a meeting with the VA.  He got copies of every document that the VA had on his case, and the care coordinator and the veterans met with the VA rep in charge of the investigation,” Brown said. “Within about 15 minutes, all the VA rep’s questions were answered, the disability checks were reinstated, and a letter of apology was sent to the veteran from the VA.  That was our first involvement, and our care coordinators have been working similar miracles ever since.”

Brown’s personal fundraising goal for “Over the Edge” is $1,200 but he expects to top $4,000 by the day of the event.

“First, it’s a great organization working for a great cause,” he said.  How can we not support our veterans?  Second, what a spectacular event.  If you’re a thrill seeker, this event is hard to beat.  Jump on board, raise some money and have the best thrill you can get in downtown Portland.”

To sign up to sponsor a rappeler at “Over the Edge” or to register to be a rappeler, visit <

Friday, January 29, 2021

Spring Birdhouse Raffle a new fundraiser for Raymond Village Library

By Daniel Gray

Examples of birdhouses on display at the Raymond
Village Library are shown. A total of 20 pre-made
birdhouses have been handed out so far as 
part of a new fundraiser for the library. 
So far this year, there have been many new beginnings for residents and businesses alike. While the snow thaws early with hopes of more being blanketed across the state, Raymond has been creating some fun new traditions of their own so far this January.

Earlier this month, Raymond's Village Library located off Meadow Road, announced a new event they will be hosting aimed specifically toward crafters in the area. 

The Spring Birdhouse Raffle is a fun activity that the whole family can partake in to create a beautiful bird house to be a bird's future home, library officials said. Not only are the birdhouses designed fully by their creators, but the money made from the raffle is for a good cause. 

Casco resident and Raymond Village Library Director Allison Griffin said the library welcomes new initiatives such as the Spring Birdhouse Raffle.

"The birdhouse project is a new fundraiser for us this year. We have had a lot of positive feedback so far and are hopeful the raffle will be successful,” Griffin said. “In addition to raising funds to support library programs and services, we also hope the project will provide a fun activity for our patrons and community members.! We look forward to displaying all the creative designs in the library for our patrons to enjoy."

While this fundraiser is new to the library, people have already been flocking there to get themselves a birdhouse to decorate, along with viewing the birdhouses that have already been designed and returned to be viewed.

As of this week, a total of 20 pre-made birdhouses have been handed out, already reaching past the initial goal Griffin and the library staff had established.


According to Griffin, the birdhouses being handed out to the public have been voluntarily made by the Maine Wood Carvers Association.


The birdhouse raffle asks that creations be returned to the library by March 1, where they will be displayed to the public and then raffled out afterward.

The raffle tickets are $1 each with a deal of six tickets for $5. Each ticket can be placed toward a specific birdhouse in the raffle.  Winners will be notified via phone or email on April 4.

The Raymond Village Library's hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

Griffin said that anyone is welcome to drop in to grab a book to read and a birdhouse to decorate.


She said that even though they have pre-made birdhouses on hand, the public is encouraged to create and submit a design of their own if they have the know-how and materials to do so.


For more information about the Spring Birdhouse Raffle, please visit<

Friday, July 12, 2019

SEALs for Sunshine undertake 16-mile swim to help military families enjoy Camp Sunshine

Mike Wisecup, Matt Shipman, Lew Emery and
Chad Kalocinski after the first fundraiser in
August 2014 which was a 13 mile swim
By Elizabeth Richards

In 2014, four active duty Navy SEALs participated in the inaugural SEALs for Sunshine event, a 13-mile swim across Sebago Lake. On July 25th, 2019, SEALs for Sunshine will hold their sixth annual event with the longest swim event to date.

Swimmers, including SEALs for Sunshine founder, retired Navy SEAL Commander Michael Wisecup, will navigate from Long Lake in Bridgton, through Naples into Brandy Pond, down the Songo River and across the northern part of Sebago Lake, where they’ll end their journey at Point Sebago, next door to Camp Sunshine.

Wisecup started SEALs for Sunshine to raise awareness of what the camp could offer to military families with children facing life threatening diseases. The first event in 2014 coincided with Camp Sunshine’s 30-year anniversary campaign, “Going the Distance.  “Going the Distance seemed to fit with a 13-mile half marathon swim across Sebago Lake,” Wisecup said. year since then, SEALs for Sunshine has held at least one intense physical challenge to support the goal of raising money for military families to attend Camp Sunshine. Just over $500,000 has been raised through these events, prompting a significant increase in military families – both active duty and veterans – attending camp.  Many of these families would not have known about Camp Sunshine without the publicity surrounding these events, Wisecup said.

The funds raised through SEALs for Sunshine events directly supports both attendance at the camp and travel costs to alleviate the financial burden of getting to and from camp, Wisecup said. 

The goal the first year was for each of the four swimmers to raise $2500, the approximate cost of getting one family to camp. They ended up raising just over $250,000.  “We were blown away.  There was so much support for it, support for the camp, support for the military. It was really nice,” Wisecup said.

Since that first event, SEALs for Sunshine participants collectively have swum 391 miles, biked 770 miles, run 116 miles, and put in 780 miles worth of stand-up paddle boarding.
“We try to do something different every year,” Wisecup said.  “This year, we’re coming back into the water.” 

The events are deliberately extremely physical challenges, Wisecup said, to bring some awareness to the difficulty a family faces when their child receives a life altering diagnosis.  “At that moment, that family has to fight for everything. They can’t quit. That’s a cornerstone of the SEAL ethos - never quit,” Wisecup said. 

While participants have the benefit of preparation and training, families don’t have that luxury, Wisecup said. “They don’t get to prepare their finances, their life, and put everything in order,” he said. “We’re lucky to be able to prepare, but we need to make it hard so that it connects, and it’s something we can have in common with those families as well.” year, according to a fundraising letter sent by Camp Sunshine Development Director Michael Smith, there is a matching challenge from Ralph and Suzanne Heckert and the Capital Group, so each donation made will be doubled.

SEALs for Sunshine events have enabled more than 200 military families from across the country to travel to Camp Sunshine, Smith said in the letter, but there are many more who still need help. 
To support the July 25th Swim for Sunshine, visit or

Editor’s note: Michael Wisecup, has been named vice president for strategic initiatives at Colby College. His responsibilities include operationalizing and managing key strategic initiatives, developing strategies and processes to assess and improve the quality and effectiveness across all areas of the College, coordinating special projects to ensure strategic alignment, increasing organizational focus, and facilitating collaboration regarding strategic planning, execution, and crisis management.