RUMFORD — Dozens of youths thronged the summit of a long entrance stairway to the lodge at Black Mountain of Maine ski area in Rumford Saturday, cellphone cameras powered up to record Maine actor Patrick Dempsey’s imminent arrival.

As Dempsey entered and appeared at the top of the stairway, Maine’s youthful paparazzi began snapping endless photos, likely causing many batteries to quickly lose their charge.

There was quite a bit happening Saturday at Black Mountain in Rumford. The ski area had invited Rumford and Bridgton hospitals for their Winter Fun Day fundraising event to help the Patrick Dempsey Center with its mission helping cancer patients.

Dempsey was tightly thronged by the camera-wielding youth as he first made rounds, thanking everyone who volunteered to support the fundraising event. There were about 55 such volunteers present on Saturday, a mix of community and Chisholm Ski Club members and hospital personnel.

Amid all the fun and excitement of snow sports and a visit from one of Maine’s few bona fide celebrities, the reality of cancer still casts a dark shadow.

Volunteer Stephany Jacques, clinical coordinator of the oncology and specialty clinic at Rumford Hospital, said the hospital helps an estimated 1,000 cancer patients annually.


Another volunteer, Susan Rivet, director of outpatient services for both the Rumford and Bridgton hospitals, estimates that Bridgton treats about three times that number.

That’s a lot of Oxford County residents using the services the Dempsey Center — just one county among many others — and presents a compelling need for fundraising.

The charity’s main fundraiser is the Dempsey Challenge, which will be held this October.

“The Dempsey Challenge … is a run, walk and cycle fundraising experience for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in Lewiston,” according to the Dempsey Center website. “One hundred percent of funds raised by Dempsey Challenge participants directly benefits the Dempsey Center, allowing us to provide free support, education and integrative medicine services to anyone impacted by cancer.”

Dempsey, “Grey’s Anatomy” actor and race car driver, opened the Dempsey Center in collaboration with Lewiston’s Central Maine Medical Center in 2008 in honor of his mother, Amanda, who suffered a prolonged battle with cancer. She remained active despite the illness until she passed away in 2014.

“We’ve been looking at expanding the (Dempsey) Challenge into the winter months, anyway,” Dempsey said Saturday. “We talk a lot about Rumford (because) we have a lot of people come through (the Dempsey Center) from this area.”


Dempsey noted that it’s really important to keep people active in the winter. Cycling and skiing were a big part of his childhood, he said, and a way of connecting with his mother. 

“We used to cross-country ski,” he said. “You’d get the snow days, and we would ski into town, just to exercise. This is an incredible mountain with great community spirit behind it. And we’re going to hopefully keep expanding on this idea.”

That’s the big picture. But there was a smaller drama unfolding.

A mother-daughter pair from North Ridgeville, Ohio, smiled as they rode the chairlift to the top of the mountain — with Dempsey sandwiched between them. They had won a chairlift ride with the Maine actor.

“Awesome,” Maria Sycz said of the encounter with Dempsey.

“It meant a lot,” daughter Olivia responded. “He was very friendly.”

“He just seems very down-to-earth and easy to talk to,” Maria added.

When asked if they believed the chairlift ride might happen, Maria responded, “No, not in the least. I thought maybe we’d get a chance to see him from a distance, but never to sit beside him and ride on a ski lift.”

That’s not a bad memory to take home to Ohio following an off-the-cuff visit to Maine.

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