9th Annual Chili Chowder Challenge Enjoyed by All
In a state renowned for its chowders, Red Barn held onto the coveted title of Best Chowder for the seventh year in a row at the Children’s Center’s 9th Annual Chili Chowder Challenge. After nine years of hosting this event, there is no denying that the competition is heating up! The 15 local restaurants that participated on Saturday, March 20, 2010, gave it everything they had, setting up festive, unique displays and serving creative and tasty recipes.
A thousand people attended the community event, which benefited the Children’s Center and raised more than $28,000 for early intervention education and therapy services for local young children of all abilities. As the crowd arrived to fill the Armory, they were greeted by Dude the Dinah Dog, and the Red Robin. Children enjoyed the festive spirit at the craft tables, where we featured a new activity this year, decorating donuts with Tim Hortons.
Meanwhile, parents, grandparents, and local folks bid on fabulous items at the silent auction and, like the Texas Roadhouse dancers, found it hard not to dance to the wonderful music by the Flashbacks. After the music, we gave thanks to the many sponsors who generously supported the event, including some who contributed to the challenge for the first time this year.
Recognition was given to Karen and Bruce MacGillivray of Tim Hortons, who have become active and compassionate members of the Augusta community. Very special thanks went to Judy Griffin of the Alliance of Maine Federal Credit Union and Chair of the Chili Chowder Challenge Committee for the past seven years. Judy’s tireless efforts bring the whole community together for a celebration each year that changes children’s lives. Thank you, Judy!
The title for Best Chili went to Little Dan’s BBQ for their “Little Dan’s Smokehouse Chili.” The Hottest Chili award went to the Liberal Cup for “Ring of Fire.” The Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center was the big winner of the day, taking home three of the six awards presented, Most Original Chowder, Most Creative Display, and Most Creative Name with “Summer Splash.”
The event concluded with a lively live auction with our skilled auctioneer Dan Bastarache. As people walked out into the sunshine with their arms full of goodies, we hope that they were imagining smiles on the faces of the amazing children we support.
“It’s neat how a child can grow developmentally in leaps and bounds in only two short years,” says Amber Stubbs, a specialized instructor in the Bursting Blossoms classroom at the Children’s Center. “Alexus can do new things every day!”
When Alexus started attending the Children’s Center, she was very shy and afraid to participate with her peers. She wouldn’t speak, didn’t know her colors or shapes, and often refused to eat. Alexus was three years old then and was referred to the Center because of its unique expertise in making accommodations for children who have differing abilities. Alexus is visually impaired and can only see about 25% of what most people see.
Alexus receives developmental, occupational, and speech therapy in an inviting preschool classroom setting. To ensure that Alexus is successful, her teachers use special tools, like a yellow tray that creates contrast against objects to sort, books with larger font, and toys with various textures. With careful attention to the set-up of the room and Alexus’s placement during circle time, the staff encourages Alexus to build on her other senses.
Today, Alexus has lots of friends! She tries new food each day and loves puzzles and legos. “I have no doubt,” says Amber, “that Alexus will continue to thrive in our classroom and beyond.”
Yesterday, I was invited to be in Waterville, accepting our recognition as one of the honorees at the Governor’s Awards for Business and Non-Profit Excellence. I like the word “excellence.” To me, it sounds richer and deeper than the overused “quality.” It carries a feeling of not only doing what you do well but doing it for the right reasons, recognizing what needs to be done, and pursuing that end with vigor and focus. I wasn’t there.
Instead, I was at a meeting with various folks from the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, legal advocates, parent advocates, and community providers, trying to preserve Early Intervention services. The repeal of MaineCare’s “Section 27 Early Intervention Services” has occurred, and the impact of that action looms large on the horizon, potentially putting more demands on Child Development Services’ already overworked and underfunded system, and, I believe, placing a great many children at risk for loss of needed services.
My hope is that the effort put into that group will bear fruit and that we all will be able to put children before curtailment and parents before policy. It would be gratifying to see departments put aside turf and history and focus instead on creativity and cooperation.
I deeply regret not being in Waterville. I understand that kind words were said about our ‘culture of commitment,’ our focus on collaboration was also noted. I am thankful that our work and values were recognized out of the more than 5,000 non-profit agencies in Maine. I am hopeful that the next time such an opportunity arises I will be there in person, as we will together have crafted an integrated, seamless service system that puts children first.
The Children’s Center participated in the Trooper Relay for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect on March 24th this year. Officer Joseph Burke of the Augusta Police Department visited our center and read Officer Buckle and Gloria to the children. Everyone enjoyed learning about how police officers work to keep families safe, and the children gave him a thank you card.
This event was one of many rallies being held all over the state. Jan Clarkin, Executive Director of the Maine Children’s Trust, said, “the goal is to bring partners together to celebrate their work and to recognize that it takes a total community effort to support our Maine families and children.”
Officer Burke took his puzzle piece to the State House, and along with other pieces brought from other community providers, the puzzle was assembled. Governor Baldacci declared April Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Most Rewarding Moments
At a recent staff retreat, the day ended with an hour of reflection, as each therapist, case manager, and administrator was asked to recall his or her most rewarding moment at the Children’s Center. Here are some of our memories:
“When Katherine, after years of practice and building her strength, walked for the first time without her walker.”
“Emmy told her mom ‘I love you, Momma,’ and Mom didn’t think she would ever talk.”
“The day that Mitchell said my full name correctly while saying ‘hi.’ He has grown so! It makes me proud and honored to have supported him.”
“The day Louis, who did not speak when he began, ran across the lobby and jumped into my arms and said my name. The look in his mom’s eyes and the hug she gave me made it all worthwhile.”
“My best time at the Children’s Center was as a parent. You changed our lives and helped us so much. My child would not be who he is today if it weren’t for you! He is happy.”
Current Board Members:
President ~ Warren Bartlett
Vice President ~ Dana Hamilton
Treasurer ~ Rep. Patsy Garside Crockett
Secretary ~ Kimberly MacKenzie
Gerald Stuart, Christine Bartlett, Elisa Paylor, Glenn Gagne, Cristina Evers, Stephanie McGary, Paige Cummings