2016-06-09 / News

Auction in young man’s memory to fund OOB scholarship

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – A Massachusetts man who summers in Old Orchard Beach is holding a scholarship fundraiser on Sunday where more than 200 items, including sports memorabilia, gift certificates and tickets to athletic events and resorts, will be auctioned off.

Paul Lafond, whose son Joe Lafond died on May 16, 2011 after a battle with Ewing’s sacoma – a form of bone cancer – said the proceeds will fund scholarships for Old Orchard Beach High School and North Andover High School in North Andover, Massachusetts. Sons of the Beach will provide entertainment for the event, being held noon to 5 p.m. at The Brunswick at 39 West Grand Ave.

Lafond, who lives in North Andover, said he bought a house in Old Orchard Beach 13 years ago, where his son would visit in the summer during his high school and college years. Although Joe Lafond didn’t attend Old Orchard Beach High School, he included the school in the benefit because of the kindness residents extended to him after his son died.

Lafond said he has planted a tree in Memorial Park in honor of his son.

“I wanted to put the tree there because the first time Joe ever came to Old Orchard Beach, him and two or three buddies took the train here,” Lafond said. “I’ll never forget it. He got off the train and it was the first time he came here. Where I put the tree was right across the street, by the basketball courts, so every time I go there I have this memory.”

Lafond, who was a sportswriter for 16 years at the Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, said connections he made as a sports journalist came through to provide valuable items for the auction. His former editor, Russ Conway, got his friend and former Boston Bruins superstar Bobby Orr to submit an autographed photo. Lafond said Conway also got autographs from 12 players from the 1986 Red Sox team, which just held a 30-year reunion at Fenway Park on May 25.

Another friend, Steve Holman, a Lawrence, Massachusetts, native and Atlanta Hawks radio announcer, contributed a basketball autographed by retired player Dominique Wilkins. The winner of the ball will also receive two tickets to next season’s first Hawks-Celtics game in Boston.

Holman holds the longest active streak in the NBA, of more than 2,000 consecutive radio broadcasts.

A showcase of the auction, said Lafond, will be four tickets to any Major League Baseball game, provided by sports agent Mark Leinweaver, including access to the batting practice session.

Lafond said his son was only 12 credits shy of graduating from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts when he had to leave school to undergo chemotherapy treatment.

“He wasn’t athletic, he wasn’t like, a jock, but he loved sports,” Lafond said. “He played a little sports in high school, lacrosse, but he loved sports, collecting baseball cards. He loved movies. His goal in life was to be a screenwriter or film critic, but unfortunately things got cut short on him and I’m trying to remember him the best I can.”

Lafond said the two went together to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, to watch Ozzie Smith’s induction in 2002. They attended a Star Wars convention in Indianapolis and a Montreal Expos home game.

In 2010, the father-son duo traveled to Chicago to watch the Chicago Cubs play three games against the St. Louis Cardinals in Wrigley Field, and another three Chicago White Sox games played at Comiskey Park, formally named U.S. Cellular Field.

“It’s a lasting memory, his last summer in late July of 2010,” Lafond said. “It was a little goodbye trip for the two of us.”

Lafond said his son believed in volunteering for the community and helping others. He enjoyed painting hydrants for the fire department and learning how the different colored tops represented different water pressures.

Lafond said he often tells his friends in Massachusetts about the kindness of people in Maine, saying, “You cannot believe how nice they are in Maine.”

“My son would be so proud of what’s going on here, the kindness of the people in Maine,” he said. “All I would ask is to help a really nice kid who needs (a scholarship) and help in Joe’s name,” Lafond said. “He was a great kid. He was very, very kind.”

Saco resident Winifred “Freddie” Chisholm, who has been helping to coordinate and promote the auction, said Lafond wrote personal handwritten notes to all the people and organizations he was seeking to receive auction items from.

“That really moved them,” Chisholm said. “He’s gotten so many items.”

Chisholm, who moved to Saco in 2011, said it’s hard to not feel “from away,” but Old Orchard Beach residents have taken exception with Lafond.

“Everyone from away is always from away,” she said, “but Old Orchard Beach seems to be a little different. They treat him like their own.

“For Paul, this is a way of paying it forward but keeping his memory alive. It’s very difficult for a parent to lose a son at the age of 25.”

Of the Old Orchard Beach community, Lafond said, “I’ve gone through all of that where they call you (from away), but they accept me now. I’ve been here 13 years. It took me a while to get in but I’m kind of in the club now.

“Everyone has been so kind. It’s humbling, that’s all I can say. It’s humbling how wonderful they’ve all been. These people are special. My Joe would be so proud and thankful for what these people have done.”

Lafond said he couldn’t name all the people who have helped, but he wouldn’t have been able to organize the fundraiser without residents’ support.

There is no admission price to the auction benefit. For more information on items up for a bid, visit the Lafond Scholarships Fundraiser page on Facebook at https:// www.facebook.com/JoeLafondScholarships .

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