Patrick Dempsey finishes a virtual version of the Dempsey Challenge in September 2020 at the Dempsey Center in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — A week before the Dempsey Challenge returns to the Twin Cities, we all know the question that burns in the minds of many.

Will the man himself be here?

“Patrick has never missed a Challenge,” said Katelynn Davis, marketing and communications manager at the Dempsey Center, “and doesn’t plan to miss this one.”

There are caveats, however. Due to lingering reports of COVID-19, Dempsey will not mingle with the masses as he has done in previous years, Davis said. Instead, he’ll make his presence known in a smaller way, with appearances away from the crowds.

“Safety,” Davis said, “is our number one priority.”

Last year, in the thick of COVID, the Dempsey Center was forced to close the doors of two of its physical locations, in South Portland and Lewiston. In response, the center “reimagined” the way they offer services, opening more virtual centers to connect with people.

“This not only expanded our reach in the state of Maine, but also meant that select services could now be provided beyond the borders of Maine, for anyone who needs it,” Executive Director Wendy Tardif said.

“We learned so much over the course of the last year,” Event Manager Deneka Deletetsky said, “and what stands out most is that the power of a community of passionate, dedicated, fearless folks who work tirelessly to help ease someone’s cancer journey is unstoppable.”

Deletetsky said the goal this year is to raise $1.5 million that will go directly to providing services to people impacted by cancer.

“It is an ambitious goal,” Deletetsky said, “but we know our community is up for the Challenge.”

The Challenge is consistently one of the most popular events of the year for many in Lewiston and Auburn, as well as for those who travel across the country for it. Last year, the community had to settle for a modified version of the event — it still raised $1.2 — and earlier this year, it remained in question whether the Challenge would be back in 2021.

It was announced in June that the two-day event would return Sept. 25 and 26, as well as a Global Challenge for anyone interested in participating who can’t make it to Maine during the fall.

“There’s this pent-up excitement about being back out and doing something as a community,” Deletetsky said.

According organizers, the event will undergo some modifications to ensure COVID prevention protocols are maintained during the weekend — but many beloved aspects will continue to happen.

Over 1,000 people have registered to participate locally, they said, and over 500 are participating globally.

While the virtual experience got a new name this year — the Global Challenge — Deletetsky said that after the success it saw in 2020, officials hope to continue to tap participants who want to join in the Dempsey Challenge festivities from afar.

To keep the community abreast of this year’s event and the changes that have taken place, Dempsey organizers released a short Q & A style report to provide those updates.

What changes will people experience?
“There will be more time for riders, runners and walkers to start and finish their events to help disperse crowds at start locations and rest stops,” Deletetsky said.

Dempsey Challenge will offer new routes in 2021 and will ask that all participants wear masks outside of physical activities.

The run and walk events presented by Poland Spring Brand 100 percent Natural Spring Water are back with a 10K run and 5K run and walk open to all participants.

For 2021, the shortest ride option will be 25 miles, offering beginners and veterans alike a chance to test themselves over the picturesque rural Maine countryside in the Dempsey Challenge Bike Rides presented by Specialized Bicycles.

How far are the rides, runs and walks at the Dempsey Challenge?
Participants have four routes available: 25 miles, 50 miles, 65 miles and 100 miles, providing plenty of choices for cyclists of all ages.

Runners can choose a 5K or a 10K option and walkers can participate in a 5K.

All in-person participants are required to meet the minimum fundraising commitment of $250 by Sept. 15 to participate in the Local (in-person) Dempsey Challenge.

How do my Dempsey Challenge contributions help?
The Dempsey Center is committed to making life better for people managing the impact of cancer. This includes cancer patients, survivors, care partners and family members of all ages. All funds raised during the Dempsey Challenge go to providing cancer support services at no cost to anyone impacted by a cancer diagnosis.

Another silver lining of 2020 was the genesis of Dempsey Connects, offering select support services online to those who cannot travel to the Centers in Lewiston or South Portland — reaching people in all corners of Maine and beyond our borders.

Can I still register?
Yes, registration is still open and costs $50 for the Local challenge and Global challenge option, and Challengers have until Sept. 23 to reach the fundraising minimum to participate Locally. However, fundraising will continue through the end of October to help reach the goal of $1.5 million.

Challengers can still register and have until 11:59 p.m. to reach their fundraising minimum in order to participate in person. Global Challengers have no fundraising minimum. There are numerous incentives for fundraisers, including custom Sea Bags signed by Patrick Dempsey.

Presented by Amgen Oncology, the Dempsey Challenge is the primary fundraising event for the Dempsey Center.

“Since its inception in 2009, the event has raised over $16 million for the Dempsey Center, with 100 percent of donations supporting the Center’s programs and services,” according to a news release. “The Dempsey Center helps make life better for people impacted by cancer by providing a haven of support to cancer patients, their loved ones, and care partners — all at no cost.”


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