The only thing Diane Blais could think to say when she came face to face with actor Patrick Dempsey on Saturday was: “Have you had the pickles?”

Blais, of Lewiston, was one of the cyclists who pulled into the rest stop at Graziano Square in Lisbon, roughly the halfway point of the 25-mile Dempsey Challenge bike ride. Pickles were one of the snacks offered by aid station volunteers.

“It’s slightly better than what I said when Patrick pulled up to me while riding the challenge a few years ago,” said Blais.

Her chosen words then: “Nice day for a bike ride.”

Saturday was indeed a nice day for a bike ride.

Actor Patrick Dempsey talks with cancer survivor Susie Morton on Saturday during the Dempsey Challenge. Dempsey autographed Morton’s bike at the rest stop in Lisbon during the 25-mile bike ride. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Dempsey let the majority of Saturday’s participants depart for their chosen walk, run or cycling distance before he and his son, Darby, left Simard-Payne Memorial Park for a 25-mile bike ride.


“I have been looking forward to this day for so long,” said Angela Gilbert, a cancer survivor from Lowell. “I cried when the first bike group left.”

Gilbert was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021 and she quickly reached out to the Dempsey Center to ask one question. She wanted to know how she was suppose to tell her three children that she has cancer.

The Dempsey Center helped her kids navigate the journey of cancer and in return, the Gilbert family gives back during the Dempsey Challenge.

“Patrick is an everyday person,” said Curtis Rector of South Paris. Rector’s late son grew up playing with Dempsey, a native of Buckfield.

Rector caught the eye of Dempsey at the Lisbon aid station that had pickles. “Patrick came right over to say hello,” said Rector.

Dempsey was in no hurry Saturday. He chose to ride a gravel bike, which has wider tires designed for Maine’s unpaved roads. The Hollywood actor said hello to just about everyone in their front yard that Dempsey past. The response was often the same from people — “that’s Patrick Dempsey.”


While many were on the lookout for Patrick on Saturday, many more were celebrating what they have overcome or riding in memory of someone whose life was cut short by cancer.

Patti Robinson of North Yarmouth pins the participant number on her daughter, Abby Cornish, prior to the start of the 5K Dempsey Challenge walk Saturday in Lewiston. Robinson was 28 when she was told that she had cancer. Her daughter, Cornish, was 13 months old at the time. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Patti Robinson of North Yarmouth was 28 when she was told that she had cancer. Her daughter, Abby Cornish, was 13 months old at the time. “It was terrifying not knowing if I would get to see her on her first day of school,” said Robinson.

Saturday’s 5K walk was Robinson and Cornish’s first Dempsey Challenge together.

Braydan Benton, 12, of Mechanic Falls rode his bike 25 miles with his grandfather, Mark Benton, in memory of his grandmother, Kathi Benton, who passed away in December, six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

“I’m doing this to honor my grandmother,” said Braydan Benton, a seventh grader at Bruce Whittier Middle School in Poland.

Eli Steere of Wells rides Saturday’s Dempsey Challenge with “mom” written on the heel of his left cycling shoe and the word “dad” written on his right. Steere’s parents are both cancer survivors. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Eli Steere of Wells rode 25 miles with “mom” written on the heel of his left cycling shoe and “dad” written on his right. Steere grew up playing lacrosse and said players often indicate something meaningful on their lacrosse helmets. His mother, Dawn, was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and his dad, Cory, got word that he had cancer as well two years later.


“Cancer does not define me,” said Dawn Steere. “It does not define the family. But cancer has made the family stronger.”

Dempsey spent about 30 minutes talking with cyclists, friends and survivors at the Lisbon rest stop. He did not eat the pickles.

But he did spot Cheri Dvorchak of Illinois and walked over to give her a meaningful hug. Dvorchak’s brother, Don Caron, died of brain cancer in July. She, herself, is a cancer survivor.

“Thirty seconds of his time means the world to me,” Dvorchak said about Dempsey.

“Patrick has an amazing heart and we love him,” she said.

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