TURNER — Actor Patrick Dempsey took photos with students, signed shirts and answered questions during his visit to Leavitt Area High School Friday. The school’s field hockey team raised the most amount of money for the Dempsey Challenge among high schools that participated, prompting the visit to thank students and staff personally.

Dempsey is known for his roles in shows and movies such as Grey’s Anatomy, Sweet Home Alabama and Enchanted, along with soon-to-be-released Ferrari.

The Dempsey Center provides counseling, nutrition, integrative therapies and physical fitness services to cancer patients at no cost, according to its website. It also provides services to youths impacted by cancer and their families.

Dempsey founded the center in 2008 after his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997, according to its website.

For 15 years, the Dempsey Challenge has raised funds for the center. Participants in the challenge run, walk or ride a predetermined course. There is a 5K, 5½-mile, 25-mile, 50-mile and 65-mile course, along with some other courses and challenges, based out of Lewiston.

While sitting in a chair on the gym floor next to Principal Eben Shaw, Dempsey answered more than a dozen pre-selected questions from students in the packed gym. Most students giggled, blushed or participated in his playful banter.


In his responses, Dempsey talked the most about his struggle with school and his experience with having dyslexia and imparted some wisdom on soon-to-be graduates.

As a teenager, he struggled with grades in school, in large part because of his dyslexia, he said. For a long time it made him feel “less than” but now he considers it a benefit. He asked if there were students in the room who are also dyslexic, telling them it is “your superpower.”

Though it does take longer for him to read and comprehend a script, dyslexia allows him to see things different from how others view things, he said.

“You’re going to be able to see things that other people don’t see and that’s your gold,” he said.

Because he struggled with his grades in high school, he was never able to join extracurricular activities, such as drama, he said.

Instead of finishing high school, at 17 he took the money a local farm in Buckfield gifted him, and went to New York City where he entered into a juggling competition. He won and it earned him an agent.


He decided that he was not going to return to Maine until he “made it,” Dempsey said, which was a hard decision to make at a young age.

He encouraged graduating students to first find what they want to do, which can take some time to figure out, he said. Once they figure that out, then they should work with people who are knowledgeable and have become masters at whatever it is the student wants to achieve or learn.

Earning a college degree and learning a trade will set them up well, he said, but they should always continue to educate themselves. He also told them to give back to their communities and to never forget where they come from.

Between the more substantive questions there were a few silly questions, such as if he considers himself a dog or cat person, to which he answered that he likes them both.

Dempsey appeared to prove entertaining and exciting for the students, a gift for a school that ranked the highest Dempsey Challenge fundraisers within its category. The school raised $6,308 but most of that came from the field hockey program, raising $5,423 itself.

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