Mr. Bennett’s Bunch is one of the teams that participates in the annual Dempsey Challenge. First created in honor of Robert Bennett, a beloved educator from Auburn who died in November of 2012, the team has evolved to honor not only Mr. Bennett, but others who have faced cancer, including survivors and loved ones who have passed away. In today’s spotlight we speak with Matt Bennett of Kennebunk, Maine, one of Robert Bennett’s three sons.
Q: Tell us about how Mr. Bennett’s Bunch got started?
A: My father, Robert Bennett, was an educator and administrator for many years at Edward Little High School in Auburn. He was well known in the community and in our family for his kindness, generosity, and his passion for helping others.
When he was diagnosed and was undergoing treatment in 2012 for glioblastoma (a type of brain cancer), we created a Challenge team called Mr. Bennett’s Bunch. It became a tradition, and this year will be our ninth year as a team.
Q: Who are the team members?
A: My mother, Diane, myself, my brothers Kevin and Rob, and many other family members and friends walk, run, or ride in the Challenge each year. Our team size has fluctuated over the years from just a few to nearly a dozen participants. Over the years we have had a cousin join us to ride who was subsequently diagnosed with cancer, has successfully won her battle, and continues to ride with us.
Our team members have each had their own friends and family members have their own cancer diagnoses, and so it seems over the years we have more and more reasons to ride, even though our team name stays the same. Over the last year, my partner lost his mother to lung cancer and now we ride in her memory, too.
Q: What is your favorite part about participating in the Dempsey Challenge?
A: Positivity, hope, and a reason to return to Lewiston-Auburn for a fun and productive event. We have countless ways that cancer has touched our family and friends, and to have the opportunity to be a part of this uplifting event each year is something we are thankful for and look forward to each fall. It’s a great chance to come back to my hometown and be surrounded by great people working toward a common mission.
Q: What would you like people to know about your father?
A: His obituary, which provides a great picture of the remarkable man he was, can be found here: https://www.funeralalternatives.net/obituaries/obit-details.php?Bennett-405
He rode in the Dempsey Challenge the year prior to his diagnosis, as a new hobby he’d picked up with his sister Tammy White (also a member of our team, Mr. Bennett’s Bunch). One section of the course traversed Megquier Hill, the road he grew up on and later raised his boys on.
Q: Have you encouraged friends and family members to become Dempsey Center donors or fundraisers?
A: Yes, and our team continues to evolve as the years go by. What a fun tradition this has become. The fundraising is easy with social media, the required amounts are attainable, and the feeling you get as a participant or volunteer pays you back tenfold.
About the Dempsey Center
The Dempsey Center is committed to making life better for people managing the impact of cancer. With locations in South Portland and Lewiston, the Dempsey Center provides services that help individuals and families maintain physical and emotional wellness as they deal with a cancer diagnosis. Understanding that cancer impacts the whole family, the Dempsey Center provides specialized services for children and teens and their families. All services are provided at no charge.