Patrick Dempsey talks with Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier and Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque prior to the start of the Dempsey Challenge cycling event in Lewiston in 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The 12th annual Dempsey Challenge will be a virtual affair in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dempsey Center announced Friday that the run, walk and cycle event scheduled in Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston for the last weekend in September, will be held across the country and around the world.

The change means participants will not have to come to Lewiston to take part in the challenge.

“This virtual experience will be hosted on two world-best activity platforms — Strava and Zwift. And you will receive support and encouragement from us to complete your own Dempsey Challenge, regardless of your access to technology,” according to a statement by organizers.

The decision to change the way the challenge is held was made due to the COVID-19 virus that has killed more than 100,000 Americans and 100 Maine residents since March. Organizers said they were concerned about the health of the community and were monitoring Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Sullivan Dempsey waits for the start of the Dempsey Challenge at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston in 2019. Sullivan and his twin brother, Darby, rode with their father, Patrick Dempsey. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

The event brings thousands of people to the Twin Cities and is the primary fundraiser for the Dempsey Center, started by Lewiston native and actor Patrick Dempsey, who wanted to give back to the community where he was born and also honor his mother who was treated for cancer in Lewiston.

In 2019, the event raised $1.24 million with 3,182 participants.

Held in the fall, the Dempsey Challenge has raised more than $13 million to improve the lives of people dealing with cancer, both patients and caregivers. All programs and services sponsored by the Dempsey Center are provided at no charge. The Dempsey Center is closed to in-person visits, but is offering all of its services virtually.

The virtual challenge will have no registration fee, but participants are asked to make a donation of at least $20 to unlock a virtual gift bag and to be entered into a drawing for an exclusive prize. The minimum fundraising requirement has been waived, but organizers are suggesting a goal of at least $250.

All money raised goes to the Dempsey Center since sponsors cover the cost for the challenge.


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