Beth Rhinelander, left, of Oakland and Shara Marquis of Waterville don Patrick Dempsey paper masks at last year’s Dempsey Challenge as they cheered riders. Actor Patrick Dempsey is expected to appear and participate in this year’s event. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Led by the Buckfield native himself, the 15th Dempsey Challenge will kick off for a one-day event Saturday, Sept. 23, with supporters riding, walking, running and stargazing at the popular annual fundraiser for the Dempsey Center and its many programs for those touched by cancer.

Actor Patrick Dempsey, the challenge’s namesake and race car driver, will be in attendance this year, hosting the event and participating in the 25-mile cycling ride, which begins at 9:15 a.m. in Simard-Payne Memorial Park at 46 Beech St. — the location where the entire event will be based.

Attending live with Dempsey, as special guests, will be Noelle Lambert, who is a paralympian, a “Survivor” season 43 competitor and founder of the Born to Run Foundation; and Ethan Zohn, who was the winner of “Survivor: Africa” and is the founder of Grassroot Soccer as well as a cancer survivor.

Amy Finn jokes with Scott Woodcock at the starting line of the 100-mile ride at the Dempsey Challenge last year. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“We want all Mainers impacted by cancer to know the Dempsey Center is here for them,” Dempsey said in a news release. “Last year we saw clients from across Maine, providing holistic, whole-person support to not only the cancer patient, but to their care partners and loved ones as well.”

The annual Dempsey Challenge is the Dempsey Center’s main fundraising event, which this year is aiming to raise $1.8 million. Last year’s event raised a record $1.6 million. The center provides to cancer patients, survivors and families no-cost services that include support groups and counseling, fitness and nutrition consultations, survivorship classes, various workshops, comfort care items, and a wig and headwear program.

With a mission “to make life better for people impacted by cancer,” the center found in a 2022 client survey that 95% felt their services did just that, according to information provided by the center. More than 2,200 clients from all Maine counties were served last year for a total of nearly 18,000 completed visits, and the center is on track to serve 4,000 clients by the end of this year, said Cara Valentino, CEO and president of the center.


Nina Houghton-Brown takes a selfie with her crew, the Orange Dragons Against Cancer, during the second day of the Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston last September. Houghton-Brown had participated in every Dempsey Challenge in memory of her husband, who passed away from cancer after participating with her in the first two challenges. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Last year, we served approximately 2,200 clients, and we have already served that total number of clients as of August. The need for integrative care to complement clinical treatment continues to grow exponentially,” Valentino said.

This year’s “challenges” will include bike rides of 65, 50 and 25 miles, a duathlon, a 5K run/walk, the Wendy’s Way Family Ride, a kids’ fun run and a survivor walk. The duathlon, a new event this year, features a 4.5-mile run and a 21.5-mile bike ride. The event will also feature a daylong “Festival in the Park” with food, drinks and live entertainment at Simard-Payne Memorial Park.

The event is open to the public — that includes participants in the specific events, who must register in advance, as well as the general public, supporters and anyone else wishing to enjoy the event and the Festival in the Park.

Online registration for people interested in participating in specific events ends Tuesday, Sept. 19. Packets and bibs for registrants will be available from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during open houses Thursday and Friday at the Dempsey Center at 29 Lowell St. Visit for more event information.

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