SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Like many things in 2020, the Dempsey Challenge was forced to go virtual amid the pandemic. In 2021 however, organizers are gearing up to welcome hundreds back to take the challenge in person.
"We are so excited to have people back and all together. Our staff is just thrilled to welcome people back to Simard-Payne Park," said Katelynn Davis, communications and marketing manager for the Dempsey Center.
The Dempsey Challenge is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Dempsey Center. The center provides quality of life care to those battling cancer and their families.
This year, the center hopes to raise $1.5 million to support those with cancer.
"We're really confident we can do it. Our support has been amazing since we opened up registration," said Davis. Already, those taking part in the challenge have raised more than $600,000.
"As soon as I came to the Dempsey Center, I knew I found my place," said volunteer Sherry Cavallaro. She's been working at the Dempsey Center since 2018 helping those battling cancer find the services that best fit their needs.
"Being able to help the clients is just the best. Seeing the looks on their faces when you're able to give them some support, it just makes it all worthwhile," said Cavallaro. "The most intrinsic, rewarding thing I've probably ever done in my life."
Cavallaro is one of the hundreds that will take part in the challenge in one month. She's been participating for several years, and that's what helped bring her to the Dempsey Center as a volunteer.
This year, some aspects of the challenge will be different. While folks will still run, walk and ride, organizers are asking all in attendance to wear masks, when not competing.
"We work with the immunocompromised community, and a lot of clients will probably be at challenge weekend. So we're really doing it because of them," said Davis.
Davis says the Dempsey Center has also been in contact with the Maine CDC and local groups to ensure the weekend-long event can happen safely.
Organizers have also set a fundraising minimum of $250 for those looking to take part in person. Davis says that's in an effort to keep the race size smaller and keep folks safe as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Maine.
There will also be a virtual option for those looking to participate from around the globe, or for folks not comfortable being part of the crowd on race day.