The Tragic Reason People's Sexiest Man Alive Patrick Dempsey Started A Cancer Non-Profit

Patrick Dempsey may have won People's Sexiest Man Alive title later in life but his best features go far beyond good looks. In 2008, the former "Grey's Anatomy" star founded a cancer non-profit named The Dempsey Center. In 2023, the center raised over $1 million in funds to provide cost-free care to cancer patients through The Dempsey Challenge. These are impressive stats for the philanthropic celebrity, but Dempsey isn't after the notoriety.

In 1997, his beloved mom, Amanda Dempsey, received the heartbreaking news that she had ovarian cancer. A striking blow for the actor and his two siblings, it inspired them to open The Dempsey Center in her honor. The center, based in Maine, is a valuable resource for cancer patients, providing support, wellness resources, education, and housing, all free of charge. 

As the actor clarified to People, "We don't treat the disease, we treat the person in what is called wraparound care. A lot of counseling, acupuncture, reiki, nutrition." His mother witnessed the creation of the non-profit but sadly passed away in 2014. Speaking to "TODAY" the following year, the "Ferrari" star admitted that throughout her battle with cancer, she would volunteer her time at the center, noting, "She was a tremendous symbol of hope in this community."

Patrick Dempsey's mom was a pillar of support

Patrick Dempsey was raised in Maine as the youngest child of William and Amanda Dempsey. His father, an insurance salesman, passed away in 1983 when he was only 17. Amanda, a high school secretary, would later remarry, remaining with her second husband until her death in 2014. Patrick reminisced with Entertainment Tonight, "My mom loved being outside [...] Some of my greatest memories that I had growing up are in the woods of Maine, especially in snowstorms — we'd cross-country ski."

Despite facing ovarian cancer that reportedly returned several times over the years, the man known to millions of fans as Dr. McDreamy recalled to TODAY how every year his mom would share her passion for the outdoors by leading a local walk in honor of cancer survivors. Now, The Dempsey Challenge continues Amanda's tradition with opportunities for supporters to walk, run, or ride a bicycle to raise much-needed funds for the center.

The 2023 Sexiest Man Alive winner told People he believes "she'd be proud," when asked what his mom would think of the center's efforts. "The type of work that we're doing and helping a family is very important and gives life meaning," Patrick continued. In tribute to his mother's lifelong passion for caring for others, the center gives The Amanda Dempsey Award annually to a Maine resident who is a cancer survivor and has positively impacted the lives of others.

The actor gives back in many different ways

The creation and continued support of The Dempsey Center is only one way Patrick Dempsey strives to be a cancer advocate. The "Bridget Jones's Baby" star has also shared plenty of advice about what he learned as a family member of someone fighting cancer. Speaking to Cure in 2022, the actor explained, "The important thing is [to] make those moments count. Don't waste time because you don't know how much time you have." Dempsey also offers insight on being a caregiver to someone with cancer (via Facebook).

It's not unusual to spot him at The Dempsey Challenge, taking the stage to raise awareness about the devastating disease. In 2019, Dempsey physically participated in the bike ride, covering at least a couple of miles in the two-day event where some riders traverse over 100 to raise money. In 2011, the "Enchanted" actor traded two wheels for four, participating in a charity race at the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series Grand Prix of Miami. 

Naturally, he was driving in support of The Dempsey Center, donning a traditional racer's jumpsuit and getting behind the wheel of a souped-up Mazda. The former "Grey's Anatomy" star turned NASCAR driver for the day informed the Daily Mail, "Until we find a cure for cancer, it will remain a priority for me to try and assist those who are afflicted." His mother would indeed be proud.