LEWISTON — Thousands of Dempsey Challenge participants and supporters came to Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Saturday in support of 15 years of Dempsey Center success. The 2,250 cyclists, duathletes, runners and walkers and their many supporters raised over $1.7 million by 4 p.m. to aid the Center in continuing to provide no-cost services to cancer patients, survivors and their families.

Dempsey, his sister and cofounder of the center, Mary Dempsey, and his family were at the Challenge, Patrick having earlier completed the 25-mile cycling event.

“I’ve been laughing, I’ve been crying, …. and I have to tell you the spirit is amazing,” he said. “There’s just so much going on in the world and what we need right now is understanding, compassion, care and empathy. When we do that, look at how we all come together as a community, how open we are with each other. How vulnerable we are and how safe we are in that vulnerability which is remarkable and it’s hard to find that …. The reason behind the center is how can we get together and give love to each other.”

Mary Dempsey said that amid the 12 recurrences of their mother Amanda’s ovarian cancer, they asked themselves what other people do when faced with cancer alone or with few to help.

“(Patrick) said, ‘Let’s fix that, let’s do it.’ …. That is the reason and creation of the Dempsey Center,” she said. “Although it’s difficult work, it’s very powerful. You get to touch someone’s life from the start to the finish line, whatever that finish line is. And it’s different for everyone and we are grateful for that opportunity, that you allow us to be in your journey.”

Several people spoke, introduced others, handed out rewards or recognitions. Noelle Lambert, paralympian, “Survivor” season 43 competitor and founder of the Born to Run Foundation, spoke about her struggles as an athlete after losing a limb. Cancer “survivor” Melissa Riviera spoke about the loaded word — cancer — and acknowledged the difficult relationship those who continue to best cancer through treatment or thrive in their remission have with it.


Out in the crowd, Hebron resident Jane Hatch said the center means a great deal to her and just wished her mother and sister, both lost to cancer before the center was founded, could have benefited from its services. So, Hatch was there to support the center when it first started in 2008, she said.

“And as soon as I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, they were my first phone call,” Hatch said. “Having someone there to turn to when you get a diagnosis is everything.”

Trevor Maxwell, last year’s winner of the Amanda Dempsey Award, spoke about his diagnosis with stage four colon cancer five years ago. He attributed his resilience to the people of the Dempsey Center who he said welcomed him with literal open arms when he walked through the door, a man barely with the will to live.

“There were probably eight or 10 of our breast cancer sisters in a room in a circle and I walk in the doorway and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, is he here to like move furniture?’ I didn’t know what to say. For an hour and a half, we cried together, we shared our stories, I talked about my kids …. Love is the magic, love is the secret ingredient. … In this place, you are seen, you are heard, you are loved.”

Since his involvement with the center, Maxwell has started his own group, Man Up to Cancer, a nationally active nonprofit seeking to break down the barriers of stoicism that often prevent men from seeking the support they need when diagnosed with cancer.

Bev Kimpel of Freeport dances with her Dempsey Challenge team, Orange Dragons Against Cancer, prior to the start of Saturday’s Dempsey Challenge 5K walk in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

This year’s Amanda Dempsey Award went to Tony Achille, diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at 16. Achille created the organization Mission 16 to raise funds for the organizations that helped him, like the Jimmy Fund and Dempsey Center. Having committed to Arizona State University for Division I hockey, the former Maine Nordiques assistant captain left a letter with his mother who accepted the award.


“To just say ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem enough,” Achille’s letter reads. “I have never done anything for recognition or awards, and I certainly never expected this. This award gives me motivation to continue my work and give back and reinforces my desire to treat challenges like opportunities.”

As the Challenge wrapped up, Patrick Dempsey said that even with all the great things coming out of modern medicine, it’s repairing the human spirit that is the center’s ultimate goal, the one question it strives to answer.

“We can heal what’s going on … just by how we react to each other, because you never know what that person is carrying. Some days you’re going to be angry, some days you’re going to be sad, but meet them where they’re at and love them,” he said. “I love all of you so much.”

The window for fundraising for the Challenge goes through the end of October.

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