As he did last year, Patrick Dempsey is giving back to his home state

– this time in a bigger way.

When the second annual Dempsey Challenge is held in October, it will have 7,500 participants, more than twice last year’s total of 3,500. It also will span an entire weekend, rather than one day, and send the famous actor on a tour around Lewiston to meet cancer survivors and their families.

In its first year, the walk, run and bicycle ride raised $1 million for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing. This year’s goal is to improve on that.

The center, which provides free wellness services to cancer patients and their families, was founded by Dempsey after his mother’s battle with cancer.

“I plan to do as much as I can. I’d love to do the walk. Most likely I’d walk with my mother,” Dempsey said in a conference call with the media Tuesday.

“I really enjoy meeting people and listening because we really need to hear what the community needs from us to take care of those needs.”

Dempsey, a Lewiston native, plays Dr. Derek Shepherd on the ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy.” He won a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2007 and People’s Choice Awards as Favorite Male TV Star in 2007 and 2008.

The Dempsey Challenge consists of a 5-kilometer run and walk, and bicycle rides of 10, 25, 50 and 100 miles through the Lewiston region.

In its first year, the event drew people from 32 states and Canada. It was so popular that event organizers had to cap registration at 3,500.

A festival held at the same time in Lewiston’s Simard-Payne Park transformed the city’s waterfront, with food vendors, live music and wellness booths.

“I was surprised with the success of the event and how much fun everybody had, the support we received,” Dempsey said.

“And the stories you hear, the letters that you get. This was a long overdue need in the community and I’m glad, collectively, we made it work. It’s probably the greatest thing I’ve been a part of in my life.”

Since registration for this year’s event opened on Jan. 30, more than 2,700 people have signed up, compared with 1,500 at the same point last year, said Mark Turcotte, spokesman for the Dempsey Challenge.

This year’s event requires participants to raise a minimum $150.

Last year, Dempsey rode the 50-mile bicycle course with pro riders George Hincapie, David Zabriskie and Stephen Roche and stopped along the course to greet spectators and cancer survivors. This year, he would like to tackle the 100-mile course.

No matter how the event grows or changes, Dempsey promised that the shared excitement of last year’s challenge will not be lost.

“It’s great to see a cause stronger than yourself,” he said. “And when everyone comes together and unites, the energy from that is very positive, and fulfilling, and deeply, deeply moving.”

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: dfleming@pressherald.com