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Dempsey Challenge goes Global in 2021

From Dempsey Center

LEWISTON – After a successful remote Dempsey Challenge in 2020, this year sees the introduction of the first Global Dempsey Challenge.

Presented by Amgen Oncology, the Dempsey Challenge is the primary fundraising event for the Dempsey Center. It will take place Sept. 25 and 26 this year.

 Registration for the Dempsey Challenge 2021 opened in April and offers a local in-person event in Lewiston – with an emphasis on implementing industry-leading COVID-19 safety protocols – and a global option, allowing participants to complete the Challenge, wherever they are in the world.

Riders in the 2019 edition of the Dempsey Challenge to raise money to fight cancer. The Challenge is returning to a hybrid Global Challenge this year, with both in-person and on-line participants for the various events.  (DB Maine Photography photo)

Since its inception in 2009 by Dempsey Center founder Patrick Dempsey, the event has raised over $16 million for the Dempsey Center, with 100% of donations supporting the Center’s programs and services. The Dempsey Center helps make life better for people impacted by cancer by providing a haven of support to cancer patients, their loved ones, and care partners—all at no cost.

The weekend’s activities will include run, walk, and ride events. On Saturday, Sept. 25, participants will complete the 5K/10K run and walk presented by Poland Spring® Brand 100% Natural Spring Water.

Sunday, Sept. 26 will see riders take on one of the 25, 50, 65, and 100 mile rides presented by Specialized.

“When COVID-19 forced us to close the doors of our two, physical centers in Lewiston and South Portland, Maine last year, we reimagined how we offer our services, and launched our third, virtual center; Dempsey Connects,” Wendy Tardif, Executive Director, said. “This not only expanded our reach in the state of Maine, but also meant that select services could now be provided beyond the borders of Maine, for anyone who needs it.”

Patrick Dempsey rides in the virtual Dempsey Challenge 2020, as volunteers help with social media and streaming for the event. (Photo courtesy of the Dempsey Center)

In 2020, the Dempsey Challenge was reimagined as well due to COVID-19, and shifted from an in-person experience to a fully virtual event as people from around the world came together to participate and support the Dempsey Center’s mission to make life better for people impacted by cancer. 

“We learned so much over the course of the last year,” Deneka Deletetsky, Event Manager, said. “And what stands out most is that the power of a community of passionate, dedicated, fearless folks who work tirelessly to help ease someone’s cancer journey is unstoppable.”  

Participants from 45 different countries took part in the 2020 Dempsey Challenge, helping to raise $1.2M. “So, we really, really are a new, refreshed Dempsey Challenge!” she said. “We’re going with it as the Global Dempsey Challenge.”

Participants wore masks as they set out on foot and on bikes, either in solo sessions or small groups, for the Dempsey Challenge in 2020 after in-person events were dropped during the pandemic. This year’s Challenge will be a hybrid event, with local in-person walks and rides, and virtual participants from the around the world. (Photo courtesy of the Dempsey Center)

“For the first time there’s no barrier to participate. People can choose to participate however they feel comfortable – whether they want to be with us here, locally, in our local Challenge right here in Lewiston/Auburn, or if they want to be a global participant. They can participant virtually from wherever they are in the world,” Deletetsky said.

With that same unifying and relentless spirit described by Deletetsky, founder Patrick Dempsey announced the launch of “…a new Dempsey Challenge in a new world; a Global Dempsey Challenge where we come together on one powerful weekend of celebration and remembrance.”

Deletetsky said, “Wherever and however you choose to participate, you’ll be supported every step—or pedal—of the way,”  

Global participants are invited to take part with any kind of active, whether walking, bike riding, hiking, or kayaking . . . “Anything that’s going to accumulate mileage,” she said. “Because our goal as a community, as a global community, is to raise $1.5 million dollars while moving 1.5 million miles of activity on Dempsey Challenge weekend.”

The money raised will go directly to providing services to people impacted by cancer at no cost. “It is an ambitious goal, but we know our community is up for the Challenge,” Deletetsky said.

The Challenge has generally raised $1.2M a year over the past years, but with the opportunity to go global for this year’s Challenge, the Dempsey Center expects to meet its higher fundraising goal this year, Deletetsky said.

Events will kick off the week before the challenge, with virtual events throughout the Challenge to include all participants.

A rider takes part in the virtual bike ride during the Dempsey Challenge 2020, when all local in-person events were cancelled due to restrictions under the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of the Dempsey Center)

There will be a series called Training Tuesdays that will start in August and run for the 8 weeks up to the actual Challenge, to help participants get ready for the event. Training Tuesdays was created last year during the pandemic and “was super awesome! We had people following us from all over the world,” Deletetsky said.

There will be a “Couch to 5K” virtual event, “So if you’ve never attempted to run a 5K, or don’t know where to start, you can join us online on our Training Tuesday episodes,” she said. “We’ll have some experts who will help you with a training plan, and we’ll be checking in with people every week.”

There will also be training for a 25-mile bicycle ride, for newer riders who may not know how to start.

 “You’ll have the opportunity to train with us all summer long,” Deletetsky said.

The Center is planning to launch a Dempsey Challenge app for smart devices, and participants will be able to take part in various challenges presented throughout the summer, such as earning a badge for moving three days in a row.

Deltetsky sees the virtual training and smart device app as “really bringing those two sides of the event” together, with virtual activities leading up to the in-person Challenge in September.

In order to help organize the crowds and prepare for the local in-person events in Lewiston/Auburn during the challenge, participants must be registered and have met their fundraising minimums by September 1, Deletetsky said. “That will allow us to look at our numbers and space people out appropriately” for the events.

“Right now, we’re not looking to limit the event at all,” she said. Challenge organizers will be following the Maine CDC guidelines for the events.

For more information about Dempsey Challenge 2021, visit

The Dempsey Center has locations on Lowell Street in Lewiston and on Main Street in South Portland.

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