LEWISTON — It was shortly after dawn Sunday morning when hundreds of cyclists led by actor and Maine native Patrick Dempsey set off on a 100-mile ride to benefit Lewiston’s Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing.

Dusk was approaching when the last riders of the pack crossed the finish line at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, wrapping up the fifth annual Dempsey Challenge.

“What an amazing community,” Dempsey said, as he addressed a large crowd of participants and their supporters, family members and friends.

“I am so proud to come from this area and so moved to come home and see the volunteers, not just here but also at the center.” he said. “The beautiful thing about this community is its ability to give and open their hearts.”

In closing speeches, attendees were told that $1.1 million had been tallied, with more to come. The total is expected to exceed $1.2 million, which was raised last year. Registrants of all ages numbered more than 3,800.

Noncompetitive bicycle rides included the 100-mile circuit, and other large groups of cyclists rode 70 miles, 50 miles, 25 miles and 10 miles. It was a cloudy day, but riders commented on the beautiful foliage.


The cyclists in Sunday’s events, as well as walkers and runners in Saturday events, came from 34 states and five countries.

Every one of the challenge participants had some particular and personal reason for taking part in the weekend’s events.

One of the teams was called “Old and Not In the Way.” Matt Johnson of Auburn said the team consisted of eight men who did 100 miles and seven women on the 50-mile ride. It was their fifth year of participation in the Dempsey Challenge.

Nine-member Team Joy, riding in memory of Joyce Kaup, a 2007 cancer victim, brought participants from Seattle, San Francisco and Maryland.

There was a grandfather and grandson combo among the 70-milers. Gerald Austin of Solon rode with 11-year-old Caleb Luce of Oakland. Young Caleb said he liked the hills, especially on the downhill side. It was his first ride over 60 miles, and he said he will aim for the 100-mile event next year.

Austin said he and his grandson rode in memory of Austin’s sister, Ann Wallingford, who died of breast cancer and was a resident of the Twin Cities.


Also among the riders on the 50-mile circuit was 82-year-old Don Robitaille. There was one rider on a unicycle who rode with the 10-mile group another on a recumbent model of bicycle.

The Dempsey Center organizers paid special recognition to the top individual fundraiser, Katy Romano of Atlanta, Ga., who raised $22,880. That was well over the record $13,000 set last year.

“Katy has been involved in the challenge for five years, and she has been diagnosed with colon cancer, which was motivation to raise that level of funds,” Aimee Arsenault, event manager, said.

Organizers also recognized the accomplishment of David Gervais, Lewiston. He raised $10,056 in contributions for the cause from 469 donors. That was the greatest number of donors for any individual. Other major fundraisers were Bert Gosselin, Lewiston, $16,143; Scott Kelly, Lisbon Falls, $10,820; and Mike Barnies, Lewiston, $10,135.

Team McKesson fielded 164 members for their ride. Team Angela numbered 91, and the Dempsey Center Dames and Dudes numbered 90. A 40-member team, the Red Eddies, represented Auburn’s Edward Little High School.

Thirteen-year-old Hailey Sontag was honored with the AMGEN cancer survivor award for her fundraising efforts. AMGEN, a cancer treatment supply manufacturer, is a major Dempsey Challenge sponsor.


Patrick Dempsey, who plays a lead role on TV’s hit series “Grey’s Anatomy,” was born in Lewiston and raised in Buckfield. He founded the center five years ago in response to an awareness of the needs of cancer patients and caregivers when his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She has undergone two recurrences and successful treatments of the disease, and her famous son introduced her on the festival stage Sunday afternoon to loud applause and cheers.

Mary Dempsey, the actor’s sister who is assistant director of the center, admitted to being “a bit chocked up” as she took the microphone to thank the staff, the 800 volunteers, participants and donors.

Mary Dempsey led the 10-mile trip for beginner bicyclists on what she called her “Social Ten.”

Wendy Tardif, executive director of the Dempsey Center, told the closing ceremony audience that this year’s ride was very special for her. It included four generations of her family.

The events began Friday and include walking and running events as welll as many activities at Simard-Payne Memorial Park including bands and a Health and Wellness Expo tent.

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