I Flew to Maine for the Weekend to Ride Bikes With Patrick Dempsey

You read that title right. I really did go to Maine for the weekend and I really did ride bikes with Patrick Dempsey. But it was so, so much more than that. 

For those of you who don't know, and I'm guessing that's a lot of you, every year in Lewiston, Maine, there is a weekend-long event called the Dempsey Challenge. The challenge is a fundraising event for the Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing. I was fortunate enough to be able to tour the center, and I was blown away by what they do and the services they provide, from yoga and nutrition classes to acupuncture and massages. But I think the most impressive thing about the center is that all of their services are free. Mary, one of the staff members who gave me the tour, said that they do what the doctors don't have time for, and they really do. You can feel it when you walk through the doors––it really is a healing and relaxing environment. It's amazing. The challenge I participated in is what pays for the center, and the money raised is what keeps the services free for everyone who comes through the door. 

"The Dempsey Center is a leader in Quality of Life care for individuals and families impacted by cancer. Founded in Lewiston, Maine by actor Patrick Dempsey, the Dempsey Center provides a personalized, holistic and integrated approach to cancer prevention, education and support. All services are provided at no cost to anyone impacted by cancer regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances or where they receive their medical treatment." 

Odds are, you or somebody you know has been affected by cancer. For me, it's my great-aunt (affectionately known as Aunt Tootie) is living with breast cancer and has been for as long as I can remember. I participated in honor of her. 

I can honestly say that my weekend in Maine was the best weekend I've had in a long time... maybe even ever. The sense of community blew me away. There was so much love and strength and determination in that park, it was almost overwhelming. Seeing so many people come together for a common cause was inspirational––especially right now when things are so polarizing. Every single person there was there for the same reason: cancer sucks. 

Patrick clearly cares so much about the positive impact the challenge and the centers have on cancer survivors, patients and their families, and hearing him talk about it in person was surreal. I think everyone there was emotional. I know I was. When I talked to him on Sunday, he asked me if I was going to be back in 2019, and it was the easiest "yes" I've ever given. This weekend was so special. It's only been over for two days and I already miss it more than I expected I would. I really didn't stop smiling the whole time, and I'm smiling right now as I think about it. 

I'm even smiling when I think about the 5K and 11-mile bike ride. 

This article didn't even begin to touch on the weekend as a whole. If you are interested in learning more about the challenge or centers, which I highly recommend, please visit https://www.dempseycenter.org/

All photos provided by Jordyn Rowland