Dempsey Challenge raises record funds


LEWISTON – It’s been two years since the Dempsey Challenge took place in person at Simard-Payne Memorial Park.

Although the 2020 event has been moved online due to the pandemic, there is no virtual replacement for the cowbells choir, live music, and cheering support from volunteers.

Nothing replaces seeing Patrick Dempsey in person either.

On Saturday, in-person participants of the 5K Run / Walk and 10K Run were fortunate enough not to have to settle for substitutions.

An aerial view of Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston shows some stages and the route of Saturday morning’s Dempsey Challenge. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

The Challenge Weekend kicked off Saturday at Simard-Payne Park in Lewiston, with run / walk events covering portions of Lewiston and Auburn. A Family & Friends festival followed in the park, with various vendors and live music.

On Sundays, 25, 50, 65 and 100 mile bike tours are scheduled with departures open between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. The second day of the family festival in the park follows.

This is only the 13th edition of the Dempsey Challenge, but it has already become an important tradition for the community of Lewiston-Auburn and beyond.

The event attracts participants from more than neighboring towns. Kim King, whose husband was just diagnosed with lung cancer, drove four hours from Sherman Town in Aroostook County for the Dempsey Challenge. Others came from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Year after year, the same teams and volunteers come together for this event in honor and in memory of loved ones who have battled or are currently battling cancer. Many survivors themselves walk or run 5K or 10K.

Although there were fewer participants than in previous years, the Dempsey Challenge 2021 raised more money than ever.

On Saturday afternoon, 1,500 in-person and 500 virtual attendees raised over $ 1.3 million for the Dempsey Center.

“This year alone we have struggled on many levels,” said Dempsey, the center’s namesake. “There are so many divisions in the world we live in, but when we rally around a good cause, see what we can do together. “

Dave Gervais, also known as “Top Dollar Dave”, is practically synonymous with the Dempsey Challenge. He has always been one of the best fundraisers for the challenge from the start.

This year, he raised over $ 18,000 for the event, the second largest fundraiser. Fran Stanhope was the top fundraiser this year, bringing in over $ 23,000 to the Dempsey Center.

Team Concentra has raised over $ 100,000 for the center, the most of any team. Bates College teams raised just under $ 30,000, winning the College Cup.

Double cancer survivor Lorraine Zuma chats with Patrick Dempsey at Simard Payne Memorial Park during Saturday’s Dempsey Challenge. She came with her daughter from New York to attend the event. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

In many ways, the Dempsey Challenge is a celebration of survival. But under the jovial atmosphere hides a current of loss. For many people, the Dempsey Challenge is a time to remember loved ones who have passed away.

Christie Kimball is the captain of the #DarcyStrong team. On Saturday, she walked in memory of her father, Mike Darcy, who died of gallbladder cancer in 2018.

“(The Dempsey Challenge) really brings back a lot of emotions,” she said, crying.

Her father visited the Dempsey Center for massages during his months-long battle with cancer. Kimball and the other #DarcyStrong members raised just over $ 3,000 this year in his memory.

Tom Fritzsche, his niece, walked the 5K hand in hand for his sister, Kate. For six years she battled cancer, he said.

Almost every challenge participant has a story or a loved one who has battled cancer.

The University of New England team cheers on a runner on Saturday as he heads to the finish line of the 10k race during the Dempsey Challenge at Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham / Journal of the Sun

The Dempsey Challenge is the premier fundraising event for the Dempsey Center, a non-profit organization that provides free support services to people with cancer and their families. The center offers advice, fitness classes, massages and other types of support.

Dempsey, a native of Buckfield, founded the center in 2008 to honor his mother, Amanda. She died of cancer in 2014.

At the awards ceremony, Dempsey announced that the center is currently working with a non-profit organization on creating a second Dempsey Challenge event in Dublin, Ireland.

For more information about the challenge or the work of the Dempsey Center in Lewiston, visit

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