“The entire Central Maine Medical family mourns the passing of Amanda Dempsey,” said Peter Chalke, President and CEO of Central Maine Healthcare. “She was both a great lady and a determined fighter who displayed tremendous courage, class and grace during her long battle with cancer.”
Patrick Dempsey’s experiences dealing with his mother’s illness while living in California led to the creation of the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing. In 2007, the Dempsey Family approached Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston with the idea of creating a local cancer support organization. Amanda had received cancer treatment at CMMC, and the family wished not only to help other families affected by cancer but also to give back to their local community. The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing was founded in 2008 by Amanda’s children, Patrick, Mary and Alicia, in honor of Amanda and in partnership with CMMC.
The Dempsey Center continues to be an important part of the family’s journey – giving back to others, sharing in strength, and creating a caring, warm and healing environment. The Center provides free cancer support, education and integrative medicine services to anyone impacted by cancer, regardless of where treatment is received. The Center had over 16,000 service contacts during 2013.
“Amanda’s passing has only made us more resolute in our mission, and we will continue to expand and grow our services and share her legacy with the world,” said Dempsey Center Executive Director Wendy Tardif. “The Dempsey Center’s Healing Garden will be named in Amanda’s Honor and, though physically she is no longer with us, we know she will continue to be a source of quiet strength and unwavering perseverance at the Dempsey Center and Dempsey Challenge. Our hearts are heavy, but they are also full as we realize the thousands of lives Amanda touched.”
Though Amanda was a private and humble person, her presence was felt throughout the Center and its primary fundraising event, the Dempsey Challenge. In a way, she was like a mother to all who walked through the doors of the Dempsey Center, whether they knew it or not. It was not uncommon to find her volunteering behind the scenes at the Center, sewing handmade comfort items to be given to cancer patients, keeping an eye on the quality control of the items or tidying up the storage closet. She often brought in apples she picked from her own apple trees, or homemade jam, and even sewed individualized door hangings for staff members’ offices when the Center moved to its new location in 2012.
For five years, donning her Survivor medal, she led the Survivor Walk during Dempsey Challenge weekend alongside Patrick, Mary, Alicia, her granddaughter Nicole and great grandson Mason, and her brother Jim and sister-in-law Cecile. The iconic pictures show a woman and her family standing together as a symbol of hope and solidarity in the fight against cancer.
During one Dempsey Challenge weekend, Patrick spontaneously tossed the microphone to his notoriously shy mother, who stood off to the side of the stage during the closing ceremonies. “Come on up here and say a few words, Mom!” he laughed, knowing full well he’d hear about it afterwards. Amanda gave him that look only mothers can give their sons, half grin, half “you’re in trouble,” before walking up to the microphone to address the crowd: “I just want to say thank you all for coming. Drive safe.” The crowd roared. It was the first time in the event’s five year history that Amanda had spoken in public.
“Her words were few, but they echoed gratitude, humility, and pride of all that her children, her family, and her community had built in her honor,” said Aimee Arsenault, Manager of Special Events & Development at the Dempsey Center. In five years, the Challenge has raised over $5 million for the Dempsey Center and brought thousands of participants from 38 states and 12 countries to the Dempsey family’s hometown of Lewiston.
“Patrick and the entire Dempsey family have made a huge difference in this community,” said Peter Chalke. “The Dempsey Center staff is a key component of the comprehensive cancer care provided in our region. Both the Dempsey Center and the Dempsey Challenge are a real source of pride for our community. We will miss Amanda deeply, but we were all blessed by knowing her and being inspired by her story.”