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Building trust, thinking sequentially, using the skills of the cohort, and delegating clearly are skills that adult managers often struggle to achieve. For a tentative 8thgrader they are “mountains to scale.” 

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In a recent exercise Tyson showed his new skills as he helped his group build a cardboard bridge that would be strong and flexible. He showed his peers that he had an idea that would work. He described the steps in order and in a way that the group could understand and chose roles for each of the group members. 

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At the end of the afternoon his group completed the task and felt proud of their accomplishments. Tyson was exhausted by his new leadership role but he realized that the next time he will have increased confidence and competence. 

Dear Friend of the Game Loft, 

Let me tell you two things that you already know: life is hard and not everyone succeeds. What makes one person thrive while another falters? Is it intelligence? Luck? Good looks? Personal or financial gifts? Resilience helps us overcome stress and believe that success is possible. I would like to introduce you to Paul Sweetland, Game Loft alumnus and honorary chairman of this year’s Game Loft annual appeal. 


paul sweetlandHi, my name is Paul Sweetland (although my old friends call me “Pete”). I was a Loft kid 20 years ago and I am one today. When I was a teenager in Searsmont, Maine I was isolated, rebellious and lost. Every set-back seemed like the end of hope. Some of my peers who felt the same way chose opioid or alcohol abuse, petty crime, violence, and a dead-end life on a rutted road to nowhere. They were not Loft kids.

Poverty, crime, violence and substance abuse are both destructive and expensive. As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Please consider your gift to the Game Loft as an investment in resilience. 

When I was a teenager I wasn’t smarter, richer, luckier or even better looking than my peers. I had no way of knowing that I would experience things that have broken the spirit of many other people. I guess that the lessons I learned at the Game Loft gave me some inward reserves that kept me going through the toughest times.  I have traveled all around the world and met people from many different cultures but nowhere have I seen a place that taught resiliency better than the Game Loft. I think it has to do with the fact that playing games brings people together and establishes a common ground. Games allow us to forget our stress for a while and enjoy life and other people. I have played backgammon with Iraqi nationals and taught Parcheesi to Afghans. We found a common language and a respite from war through games.

Paul says that the Game Loft helped him find himself and his place in the world. Today he is an active community volunteer who has worked with hurricane disaster relief and runs his own version of the Game Loft in San Antonio for young soldiers and members of the community. 

The biggest lesson I learned at the Game Loft was how to be the best person I could be. That meant being the best player, the best friend, and the best community member. Instead of thinking of my own problems I began reaching out to others. Now instead of a road to nowhere my life extends across the globe. 

A few years ago I established a gaming group in San Antonio. Remembering the Game Loft I suggested that we give the group a name and put it on a tee shirt. Suddenly we had belonging and identity. I used the Game Loft as a model and here are some of the things I helped them discover. 

Don’t give up. Even when you think you are losing there is still hope. That is a lesson that works for games and life. 

Every member of a team is important. I teach this one through Dungeons and Dragons. Nobody wants to play the cleric because that role is the support staff of the Dungeons and Dragons game but without that position the group will fail. Each person and each role is important to the team. Every person has a unique gift to bring to the group.

Life has challenges but success is possible. I have traveled the world and many times I have seen people at their worst. I have an injury that will be with me for the rest of my life. It would be easy to turn inward and to revert to the isolated, angry person I was so many years ago, but I hold within me the hope that the Game Loft imparted to me as a teenager. Now I share with my gaming group the acceptance, generosity, and kindness that I learned at the Loft. By sharing what I have learned I hope the legacy of the Game Loft will grow. Please help the Game Loft build resilience for the kids who will one day shape the world.

Sincerely,

Paul Sweetland, “Loft kid”


Paul Sweetland has overcome obstacles in his own life and has raised the sights of his community. As a husband and father, mentor, team member, and volunteer he embodies the vision of the Game Loft. Your gift will help the Game Loft build strong children and youth who will be able to succeed in a dangerous and difficult world. Please be generous. Donations can be made online through the Game Loft website or mailed to 78 Main St.; Belfast, ME 04915.

Sincerely,

Patricia and Ray Estabrook, Co-Founding Directors

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Steven Bishop accepts award during Maine Association of Nonprofits’ sold-out Executive Leadership Forum, ‘The Secret Sauce to Boardroom Success: Culture and Dynamics. Photo credit: Camden National Bank

This October, Camden National Bank recognized six outstanding nonprofit board leaders with their 2018 Leaders & Luminaries Awards and $22,000 in grants to the winners’ respective organizations. Since the Leaders & Luminaries Awards began in 2011, Camden National Bank has given $130,000 to 37 Maine nonprofits through its private charitable foundation, The Bank of Maine Foundation. Honorees are selected for a successful use of passion, innovation and resourcefulness to help Maine communities thrive.

In 2018, The Game Loft nominated Treasurer, Steven Bishop, acknowledging his exceptional leadership employing these very distinct traits. Steven first discovered The Game Loft as a kid where he witnessed first-hand their mission to promote Positive Youth Development through non-electronic games and community involvement. As a young adult, Steven learned bookkeeping and used those skills to help The Game Loft succeed through a time of financial hardship. At the age of 22 he joined The Game Loft board. 

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Steven Bishop with co-founding director Ray Estabrook in 2001.  Photo credit: Patricia Estabrook

Using his newfound skills, Steven went on to secure a junior accountant role at Harvard University, where he is also enrolled as a student. He is the first in his family to attend college, and he will graduate from Harvard in May 2019. Now 30 years old, Steven continues to serve as The Game Loft Treasurer remotely from his home in Massachusetts and remains an inspiring advocate of The Game Loft, who has brought energy, leadership and greater sustainability to the organization.


This year, over 65 nonprofit board members were nominated by the community, and Camden National Bank’s Leaders & Luminaries independent selection committee chose two Emerging Leaders receiving $1,000 each, including Game Loft nominee, Steven Bishop, along with four Grand Prize winners receiving $5,000 each for their respective organizations. The Game Loft is proud to see this outstanding young contributor recognized for his work and dedication to the Waldo County community.  Other honorees recognized this year serve as board directors at Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Milestone Recovery, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Maine Inside Out, and Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

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From left, Camden National Bank executives are shown here with the 2018 Leaders & Luminaries Awards winners. Pictured (from right) are Renee Smyth, Camden National Bank chief experience and marketing officer; Samaa Abdurraqib, Maine Inside Out board co-chair; Ben Martens, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association executive director; Brad Babson, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust board president; Ryan Ciriello, Milestone Recovery development committee chair; Steven Bishop, The Game Loft treasurer; Chelsea Ellis, Hardy Girls Healthy Women board director; and Greg Dufour, Camden National Bank president and CEO.  Photo credit: Camden National Bank

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You can’t have travel based educational opportunities without wheels. On Oct. 23rd our new dedicated van arrived. The kids were both proud and embarrassed to see themselves writ large on the sides of the van. We had told them that they were going to be super stars. Now they know we meant it!

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They quickly took possession of their van and went on our first field trip to the Marsh River Coop.

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Over hot chocolate and pumpkin pie, they had a facilitated discussion and agreed on rules for traveling in the van that were acceptable to everyone – voice and choice in action.

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We came to the mentors’ retreat at Lake Flagstaff this August two by two: two youth, two college students, two adult volunteers and two elders. By the time we left we were one cohesive group. We reflected on the lessons we learned from our mentors and made plans for our own mentoring experiences. 

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Gabriel Baldwin, Game Loft alumnus and mindfulness training consultant led the group in various activities throughout the 3-day session at Lake Flagstaff. 

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We hiked, swam, played games, laughed and ate great food but mostly we listened. We listened to each other, to the sounds of the lake and the forest, and to our bodies. What we heard was louder than mere words. 

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Each member gained an appreciation for nature and for each other. As the sun set over Lake Flagstaff we gave thanks for the many opportunities we were given to serve and to support. 

I Know ME: Expanding Worldviews

Five of the six boys in this re-creation of Homer’s art are I Know ME participants. They “became” subjects in the Winslow Homer painting one afternoon in September. Before we posed them at Birch Point State Park they had never heard of Homer or seen any of his work. Now they will never forget it. The re-creation is an homage to Winslow Homer and not a copy, just as the boys, while assuming the same poses as the originals, have their own thoughts and ambitions as they look out to sea. 

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In the 1870’s Maine artist, Winslow Homer, painted boys on the beach watching ships and thinking about their future. Would they sail away to foreign ports someday? Would they be adventurers, businessmen, explorers, or just clerks watching the world go by? We’ll never know what happened to the boy models in this painting but we hope to expand the lives of Maine youth by introducing them to great art. 

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In I Know ME the youth have experiences that would not have been possible without the program. In the summer of 2019 these boys and others in the I Am Art project will host an art exhibit and will travel to the Winslow Homer studio in Prout’s Neck. If one of the purposes of great art is to make you see the world differently, then the purpose has been fulfilled.  Birch Point, Prout’s Neck, and even boyhood have been redefined by this project. 

End of Year Party 2018

Thank you to everyone who came out to our End of Year Party Friday June 22!  We had a great time enjoying a beautiful evening by the water with great food, games, and, especially, people.

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Our "small foods" potluck fed a big crowd at the City Park Pavilion!

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Bradley Arsenault, Marcus Vaillancourt and Jeremiah King receive their certificates of completion for this year's Coming of Age in America program, America Awakening, set in Maine in the 1880s and 1890s. Nic Elkins who joined in late looks on.

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Finn Tabox, Zach Barboza, Marcus Vaillancourt, and Jeremiah King are recognized for their service on the Youth Advisory Board.

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Gamemaster Chris Donley tells our graduating seniors: Jeremiah King, Zach Barboza, and Alex Dorr, and Marcus Vaillancourt why each one of them is his favorite.

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And, finally, Live Action Small World was a BIG success!

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We hope you're all well rested from the break and ready to begin a great summer at the Loft starting tomorrow! Our Gamemasters have some exciting RPGs planned along with LAC every Wednesday and programming for our younglings on Mondays.

Please call 338-6447 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions!

As the Loft closes for break and we prepare for summer programming, we're happy to reflect on the successes of our newest program's first season.  In the last month 7th graders in I Know ME have been exploring our own backyard with their first overnight trip to the UMaine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Tanglewood and an end of the year cookout at Swan Lake.  These "close-to-home" adventures aim to develop the skills and confidence needed to prepare the kids for future trips, including a trip to the Maine Wild Blueberry Fesitval this summer! 

We'd like to share with you the I Know ME program in action with a photo journey below!  Keep an eye out for even more from the I Know ME cohort this summer.

Overnight trip to Tanglewood:

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Hiking Mt. Batty...

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Reaching the summit!

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End of Year Cookout at Swan Lake:

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Passport ceremony, IKME will be visiting every State Park in Maine!

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Braving the June waters and swimming in Swan Lake!

Celebrating 20 Years of Love and Service

Please enjoy following speech delivered by Patricia Estabrook at our 20th Anniversary Pax Britannica Gala & Reception:

This is a love story. It begins with my husband, Ray Estabrook. Shortly before we got married, about 35 years ago, he had a dream. In his dream he saw a plaque that said, “We will love and serve them all.” He asked me, “Can you do that?” I had a son from a previous marriage and I thought he meant that he wanted more children. I was so blinded by love that I said, “Sure!” Little did I know. For 15 years we didn’t have any more children and then we started the Game Loft.


When I first saw all those kids and we didn’t have any money or any time I said to my mother, “What will we do?” And she said, “Just love them.” 


When I first saw all those kids and we didn’t have any money or any time I said to my mother, “What will we do?” And she said, “Just love them.” Now I know you can have service without love but you can never have real love without service. And that was the beginning of the Game Loft. We loved the kid whose mother died shredding the family order. We loved the kid whose family moved away and left him. We loved the kid we kicked out 217 days in a row and welcomed back day after day after day. We served the the bullied, the ostracized, the successful, and the struggling and especially we served the isolated. We loved brilliant Carlos as well as clique we called “the vipers.” And we served them all. Soon we had 100 kids, and then 250 and then on and on beyond counting.

About ten years ago we had a kid at the Loft I’ll call Taffy. Taffy was a real pain. Every day kids and staff and volunteers came up to me and said, “There is a limit, and that kid Taffy has crossed it. Get rid of him.” Taffy teased, he stole, he disrupted games, he bragged, he ate everything in the kitchen, he complained, he whined, he drove us nuts. It was “Taffy, no, and Taffy, stop, and Taffy, leave that alone.” All of us, staff, volunteers, kids, parents, everyone, had enough of Taffy. We kicked him out and let him come back, over and over again because loving and serving him was our mission. And we never wanted to see him isolated and alone.

Then one day we got to the end of the school year picnic at City Park. It is a big occasion for kids and parents and it is our Loft “graduation” party. Taffy was about 13 at the time. All day long he got under everybody’s skin. He was pushing, pushing, pushing everybody. The party was no fun. Everybody was asking me to send Taffy home. I explained the rules again and again until I just gave up. I was so mad that I said, “Taffy, get out of my sight, you are driving me crazy!”

And so he did. He went down the hill and sat on a rock by the water with his back to all of us. And I was glad.

I stood there and watched him sitting alone and isolated and all I could think of was that at last he was out of trouble. After a while I called out to him, “O.K. Taffy, you can come in now.” He sat with his back to me looking out toward Islesboro. O.K., I thought, let him sit. And he sat. Then I noticed the tide was coming in. Well, I thought, he’ll come in soon. But he sat. And then the tide was up to his rock. And then it was around his rock. And I called out, “Taffy, it’s time to come in.” And his rock was getting wet and I called, “Taffy please come in.” But he sat. And then I begged, ‘PLEASE come in?” But he sat and the water kept rising and he was alone on his tiny island. And then I got really worried and I said, “Lord, please bring Taffy back to us. We need him.”

And just at that moment Quin Frazier came over and said, “I’ll bring him back.” And Quin walked down the bank, splashed into the water, and sat down next to Taffy on the rock. I was too far away to hear but I think they sat without talking.  They were together. And the water rose. It was at their toes, then their ankles, then their knees and I was praying. And then, without a word, Taffy and Quin turned at the same moment, splashed through the water and returned to the gazebo and the party started again.


"The dream of love and service that Ray shared with me had grown. It had grown to the kids in the program, the staff, the parents, the volunteers, and the community."


It was at that moment that I realized something about the Game Loft. The dream of love and service that Ray shared with me had grown. It had grown to the kids in the program, the staff, the parents, the volunteers, and the community. It had grown to Trish who served meals, to Tom and Dallas who run games, to the generous staff who give of themselves every day, to Chuck who defrosts the refrigerator, and to Matt who cleans the stairs. All of them, all of you, love and serve. The dream that Ray had all those years ago has grown to become a community where no one is isolated. 

I saw Taffy a month ago. He is a grown man now and lives in another state. He has learned some lessons over the years. He is a member of a community and he volunteers regularly to make sure that no one is isolated or neglected.

And now I want to thank you all for being here. For the love of community you share and the good words you do. Truly you help us love and serve them all.

- Patricia Estabrook

Several years ago Ray and I discovered the State of Maine state park passport program and it changed our lives.

Maine State Park Passport

If you are unfamiliar with the program it is a checklist for visiting all 48 state parks managed by the Department of Parks and Lands of the State of Maine. The parks range from Fort McClary in Kittery to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Northern Aroostook County.

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Visiting all 48 state parks introduces you to beaches, historic forts and buildings, mountains, hiking trails, canoe trails, and the depth and breadth of the state of Maine. When we devised the I Know ME program we realized that our kids would benefit from being exposed to all of these wonderful parks and seeing what makes living in Maine such a rich experience.

On February 6 the first group of I Know ME kids visited Commissioner Walter Whitcomb in Augusta to receive their state park passports. A story about their visit was picked up by the Associated Press and circulated nationally.

Commissioner Whitcomb

A goal of the I Know ME program is to help young people confront the problems of the state and answer nagging questions using the resources of government, business, tourism, universities, museums, and people. Engaging with the state parks is one step in this process of exploration.

After visiting Commissioner Whitcomb the group had its first visit to the Maine State Legislature.

Crossing through the metal detector was the first challenge.

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Senator Mike Thibodeau welcomed the group to the legislature.

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Representative Erin Herbig showed them her office including the “secret passage” to the House floor.

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In these days of political cynicism it is important for kids to understand their government and to be able to understand the work they do for the people of Maine.

Each session ends with journal writing. Their journals will be kept from year to year to show the progress these young people are making in the mastery of their state and their lives.

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Please “travel” with us as we explore the state including the 48 state parks. Please feel free to make additional suggestions about who we should know, where we should go, what we show do, and how much experience it takes to understand the state of Maine.

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