13th annual Dempsey Challenge proves importance of community in fight against cancer

About 2,000 people took part in Dempsey Challenge 2021, of which more than 500 participated in the global virtual challenge in 10 different countries.

LEWISTON, Maine – On the morning of Sunday, September 26, motorcyclists dressed in brightly colored clothing adorned the rainy streets of Lewiston. These men, women and children wore the gloomy weather for a positive purpose: the second day of the 13th annual Dempsey Challenge.

Each year, the Challenge raises money for the Dempsey Center, which supports cancer patients and their caregivers at locations in Lewiston, South Portland, and virtually, through a new platform called ‘Dempsey Connects’.

Founder Patrick Dempsey says fewer people took part in the Challenge this year, but overall they’ve still raised more money than ever through individuals, teams and business groups.

“It’s always amazing to see how many people have been affected by cancer, and that’s the people who drive, walk and run,” explains Dempsey. “It’s either in memory of someone, or someone they know personally who’s going through it, or… [is a] survivor.”

The second day of the 13th annual Dempsey Challenge has begun! HUGE shoutout to the motorcyclists riding despite a very rainy start to the morning. About 2,000 people are taking part in the Challenge personally and virtually this weekend. @newscentermaine pic.twitter.com/RsPXWoZTNb

— Chloe Teboe (@ChloeTeboe) September 26, 2021

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About 2,000 people took part in the 2021 Challenge, and more than 500 of them took part in the global Challenge virtually in 43 states and 10 countries. The bike rides on Sunday were 25, 50, 65 or 100 miles long.

The challenge and mission of the Dempsey Center came close to home for many people.

“I started 12 years ago because a good friend’s mother had stage 4 cancer. I saw an advertisement [for the Challenge] the next day,” said Wells’ Ryan Ellis. He rode the 50-mile ride for three years, the 75-mile for a year, and has been doing the 100-mile excursion ever since.

“Just having a support system is great, and something like this is such a household name,” Ellis said.

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David Maher of Greene has also been participating in the Challenge for years and did so virtually in 2020 by cycling the carriage roads and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

“I love everything the Dempsey Challenge stands for, and I just love the whole community aspect of the Dempsey Challenge,” said Maher. “It’s a big part of the Auburn/Lewiston area.”

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For Cameron Hartley from Auburn, attending the Challenge this year was a new experience.

“My dad died of cancer in March and his good friend Joe was riding in his honor and I wanted to come out and see him finish,” Hartley said.

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Laurie Reynolds-Bosquet of Lewiston was one of many people standing on the sidelines, cheering the motorcyclists on as they set out on their journey. She says that feeling of support is important.

“Starting out on a long ride, whether it’s 10 miles or 100 miles, or anywhere in between…being turned away with bells just gives you that pump and that energy, knowing that someone is there to encourage you.”

She says the Challenge allows people to be part of something “bigger” than themselves.

“To be part of an event that gives so much back to your neighbors, your family, your friends… it’s really heartwarming, and at the end of the day you just feel good.”

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By Sunday night, the 13th annual Dempsey Challenge had raised more than $1.2 million.

Patrick Dempsey said the Center will hopefully announce its final fundraising figures soon.

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