LEWISTON — It took nine minutes for thousands of people to stream across the starting line early Saturday morning under brightening skies for the start of the fifth annual Dempsey Challenge.

From a nearby stage, actor Patrick Dempsey cheered, waved and declared it “good to be home.”

While the fundraising total won’t be announced until Sunday, organizers teased that for the second year, walkers, bikers and runners had raised more than $1 million for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing.

“You never knew it was going to happen,” said Dempsey when asked by an emcee if he ever envisioned the event becoming so large. “I think it’s a real testament to the community. We own this together, it’s ours.”

The Dempsey Center provides help free of charge to thousands every year, those fighting cancer, survivors and their families.

An estimated 2,400 people took part in the 5K and 10K walk/run on Saturday morning. Another 1,100 were registered to cycle routes around Western Maine on Sunday.


Participants turned out from 34 states and seven countries.

Teams wore t-shirts with names like “D’Feet Cancer” and “Radon Done Right.”

Dee Hymel, from Morgan City, La., and Sarah Anderson, from Waukesha, Wis., were there for their fourth year. The two friends met at Gritty McDuff’s in Auburn during the 2010 challenge and have returned together each year ever since.

“I just love the atmosphere,” said Hymel. “I lost my mom in 2001 (to lung cancer) and I struggled for a long time. After my dad passed, I knew I needed to get over this, move on.”

Reaching out and funding the Dempsey Center online helped.

“I’m doing something so positive,” she said. “It just kind of rejuvenates and rekindles my spirit and I take it back with me.”

For more coverage of the event, see Sunday’s Sun Journal.


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