Trenton Gardiner, right, and Rylee Jackson browse at auction items Saturday during a fundraiser for Ben MacMichael at the Exhibition Hall in Athens. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

ATHENS — When Ben MacMichael was diagnosed with stage four cancer in April, it devastated not only him and his family, but an entire town who have come to love MacMichael like a brother.

“He’s kind of a big deal around here,” said MacMichael’s sister-in-law, Kelly Poulin. “This town has been hit with lots and lots of tragedies, and we always pull together. This is a nice community, people step up.”

Ben MacMichael, 52, married Poulin’s sister, Sarah, 15 years ago. The couple moved to Athens in 2005 to live on Sarah’s family compound on the outskirts of town.

Originally from a big Skowhegan family, MacMichael has become a part of the fabric of Athens. He’s the neighbor who will come and shovel your drive, or bring you flowers on a tough day, his wife says. A coworker at UPS, where he’s worked as a driver for over 20 years, said he always goes about his day with a smile or a joke lined up.

Just as MacMichael has been there for his community, on Saturday, nearly 200 of his friends, family and neighbors came out to a fundraiser at Athens’ exhibition hall to show him they’ve got his back, too.

Organized by Ben and Sarah MacMichael’s family members, the all-day benefit event included competitive corn hole and kick ball tournaments, a pot roast, an ice cream bar, live music, a dunk tank and a live auction.


The goal of Saturday’s fundraiser was to raise as much as possible for a beloved community member and his family in the battle against cancer and its associated costs. MacMichael’s family also said that events like Saturday’s have given the Athens community a sense of purpose in the face of tragedy.

“So many people want to do something, and what can you do? How can you help?” Ben MacMichael’s sister, Dorothy Reed, said. “People want to feel like they’re helping.”

Kendall Judd checks on the pig Saturday during a benefit fundraiser for friend Ben MacMichael at the Exhibition Hall in Athens. MacMichael is undergoing cancer treatment. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Since MacMichael’s diagnosis, the family said they have raised over $25,000 through personal donations, a GoFundMe, a bake sale, yard sale and some live auction events.

“Everybody has been very supportive, very generous,” Sarah MacMichael said Saturday. “Not just in Athens, but all over, people have reached out.”

Any funds raised go toward the cost of medical treatments and helping with family bills as MacMichael has been out of work since April. Sarah MacMichael said she has not only had to go back to work to support the family and their three children, but also had to get a crash course in nursing so she can care for her husband at home.

“It was challenging at first, but I feel like I’ve got it down,” she said. “He’s a pretty easy patient.”


He is halfway through a round of chemotherapy treatments, Sarah MacMichael said. The pair celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary this week in the oncology ward of Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan.

Though in the middle of intense treatments, his siblings said he was desperate to be well enough for Saturday, and would make an appearance so he could personally thank everyone for supporting him. He has been very appreciative, and a little overwhelmed, by all the help, Sarah MacMichael said.

“This is going to be great for his spirits,” Sarah MacMichael said of the massive turnout for Saturday’s fundraiser. “If anybody’s going to beat it, it’s going to be him.”

The next family-organized fundraiser for Ben MacMichael will be a basket bingo event at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds on Sunday from noon to 1 p.m.

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