Dempsey Challenge raises another $1.2 million

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LEWISTON — A crowd of about 100 participants, fundraisers and onlookers watched as Patrick Dempsey took the stage Sunday afternoon at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston to close out the 10th annual Dempsey Challenge.

During his closing comments, Dempsey gave thanks to the event’s fundraisers and volunteers, the driving forces who make the Challenge possible.

“(The volunteers are) here because they want to be,” Dempsey said. “You can see it in their eyes.”

The Challenge raised $1.2 million this year, not counting the donations collected during registration and raised during the event, to support cancer patients and their families.

About 3,200 riders and walkers participated in the event, and 372 teams worked to raise money for the Dempsey Center, with the last riders crossing the finish line just before the closing ceremony at 4 p.m.

“There’s still a rider out there,” Dempsey joked. “He left at midnight.”

“I like seeing all the support for people who need help fighting cancer,” said Rick Smith, a volunteer ham radio operator for the Challenge. “The new route was great, and we couldn’t ask for a more beautiful ride.”

Dempsey also thanked corporate donors, including Gritty’s Brewpub, Baxter Brewing Co. and Amgen Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Thousand Oaks, California.

Dempsey also applauded fundraisers who raised $10,000 or more.

As the ceremony ended and participants filtered out of Simard-Payne Memorial Park, vendors loaded wares and equipment into box trucks and the L.L.Bean Bootmobile slowly headed across the small bridge over the canal.

The 11th annual Dempsey Challenge is set for next Sept. 28 and 29. Dempsey told the crowd he hoped it will be the largest ever.

Edward Little High School cheerleaders encourage Caden Cox of Hebron as he rides Sunday in the 25-mile Dempsey Challenge bike ride. Cox is an eighth-grader at Tripp Middle School in Turner. He was photographed in Auburn. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Neil Bement, left, of Auburn and Lyle Uecker of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, share a moment at the mile 4 rest stop on Penley Corner Road in Auburn during the Dempsey Challenge bike ride on Sunday. Bement, a survivor of both colon cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, wore a hospital gown and plastic buttocks as a way to celebrate being cancer free. Uecker was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2009 and has participated in every Dempsey Challenge since. “We get a picture together each year to prove that we are still alive,” Uecker said about Bement and himself. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

By JIM WITHERELL, Special to the Sun Journal
 
It is 6:30 in the morning, 50 degrees, and I am standing in the VIP area behind the stage at the Dempsey Challenge.
It is ironic I am here, since my only claim to fame is that I can both write and ride a bicycle 25 miles. Probably.
I thought my two-week, short-notice training regimen had prepared me for the day’s ride, until I encountered some of the hills.
I was close enough at times to hobnob with the real VIPs, including former professional racer “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez, reporter and host Bill Green and, of course, Patrick Dempsey.
When I did get the chance to talk with Dempsey, the one thing I wanted to know — after making sure he was riding a bicycle and not another motorcycle — was how he was able to manage when he was surely being pulled in a thousand different directions during his brief time back in Maine.
    “I don’t feel that way at all,” he said. When I’m talking with someone, I’m concentrating on them and what they’re saying. I love Maine. I love the people. And I love putting on this wonderful event.”
Dempsey encouraged me to talk with some of the children in the area because they had been given new Specialized mountain bikes in exchange for their pledge to try to raise $1,000. One boy raised $1,001 for the Dempsey Center and had his donation matched.
    As the tiers of riders were being released for their various distances, Bill Green announced he would be riding 100 miles at next year’s challenge.
    Once I was on the road, things got “real” in a hurry. I was convinced the route map had not shown all of the hills I encountered. Or at least it should have labeled them as “nasty.”
    At first, some of the roadside informational signs seemed to be taunting me. The “15 MILES TO GO” sign only served to remind me that, at that point, I had put just 10 miles behind me.
The “5 MILES TO GO” sign was a nicer sight.
    As I wobbled up the last hill, the lady behind me said, “It’s a little hillier than last year’s course.”
    “A little?” I muttered. “A LITTLE?”
    The best parts for me, as it began to warm up, were the volunteers and the scenery, in that order. Among them: “Miss Doris,” a bus monitor for Geiger Elementary, and Stan, a super-friendly bike mechanic whom I have not seen in a couple of decades. He recognized me immediately at a rest stop.
The crowd also included many other people at cheer stations and rest stops.
My favorite signs were a Burma Shave-type affair that asked, “WHY DON’T BICYCLES” … “STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES?” … “BECAUSE THEY’RE TWO TIRED.”
Somebody sure knows how to cheer up a tired writer. Until the next hill, anyway.
    In the long run, it was a good time and I would consider doing it again — if I had more time to train.
Just one thing: At the approach to each ascent, maybe they could post a “BEWARE OF HILL” sign, or perhaps a few words of encouragement.
    My advice to Bill Green: Start training now.

Susie Morton of Madison, Wisconsin, gives Patrick Dempsey a hug at the mile 12 rest stop on Stackpole Road in Durham during the Dempsey Challenge bike ride on Sunday. Morton, was diagnosed with lymphoma when she was 10-years-old and was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer one month ago. She and nine friends rode together for team Q’s Minions. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Cyclists turn the corner Sunday from Riverside Drive onto the Penley Corner Road in Auburn as a hot air balloon flies overhead during the Dempsey Challenge bike ride. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Patrick Dempsey, center, leads riders at the start of the 25-mile Dempsey Challenge bike ride Sunday in Lewiston. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Isabella Rodriguez, 10, hangs onto mom, Annie Rodriguez, before the start of the Dempsey Challenge bike ride in Lewiston on Sunday. Isabella’s dad is four-time U.S. National Road Race champion Freddie Rodriguez, who travels each year from California to participate in the Dempsey Challenge. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Lyle Uecker of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, rides with his radiation treatment mask on the front of his bicycle. Uecker wore the mask during radiation treatments after being diagnosed with lymphoma in 2009. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The race number of Joe Dulac lays on Oxford Street while he and his daughter, Olivia, get ready to participate in the Dempsey Challenge bike ride on Sunday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Patrick Dempsey talks with Dempsey Challenge volunteers participants at the mile 12 rest stop on Stackpole Road in Durham on Sunday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Issak Anokye, 7, of Hebron spends time with his mother, Darcy Anokye, at the 22 mile rest stop during the Dempsey Challenge 25 mile bike ride in Auburn on Sunday. Issak rode with his grandfather, Tim Guerin. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Neil Bement of Auburn and his wife Sue cheer for cyclists as they pass the mile 4 rest stop on Penley Corner Road in Auburn during the Dempsey Challenge bike ride on Sunday. Bement, a survivor of both colon cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said he has dressed up for the past ten Dempsey Challenge events as a way to celebrate being cancer free. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Edward Little High School cheerleaders encourage cyclists as they nearly finish the 25 mile Dempsey Challenge bike ride in Auburn on Sunday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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