Patrick Dempsey Talks Giving Back, Rob Gronkowski, and IndyCar Racing in Boston

We caught up with the actor before his appearance at Fenway Park for the annual Sweat For Good Summit.

Patrick Dempsey

Patrick Dempsey Photo via iStock/ Junko Kimura / Getty Images

As a Maine native, Patrick Dempsey has a special place in his heart for New England, which is why he shipped up to Fenway Park on Friday to support an event hosted by a New Hampshire-based nonprofit.

Over 200 people will convene in Boston this weekend for the Sweat for Good Summit, an annual event put on by Positive Tracks, a youth-centric organization that helps young people get active and give back through sport.

Alongside Olympian and fellow New England native Doug Lewis, Dempsey will appear at Fenway on Friday for the Sweatys Awards, which honors the accomplishments of participants under the age of 23. The actor has worked with Positive Tracks for over six years because he wants to encourage kids to stay fit while helping their communities.

“I think it’s really important for kids to get active and to put down the cell phone and put down the iPad and shut off the TV and get out and do something,” Dempsey told Boston magazine. “Then getting them together with other kids, and doing something for a cause greater than themselves, is transformative.”

He added, “I think this is going to instill a work ethic and a philosophy in life that will affect them as leaders and people in their community in the future.”

Dempsey first started working with Positive Tracks through his Maine-based organization, the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing. Located in his hometown of Lewiston, the center provides free support and services for people affected by cancer, a cause that’s become more personal for the former Grey’s Anatomy star since his mother died from the disease in 2014.

Nini Meyer, president and founder of Positive Tracks, praised Dempsey for not just lending his name to good causes, but also for getting involved “on the ground level.”

“He’s incredibly committed to getting young people involved,” Meyer said. “He kind of pours gas on the fire every time he does us a favor and gives the young people that boost.”

She added, “He is the real deal.”

Don’t be surprised if Dempsey shows off his dance moves while presenting at the Summit’s Sweaty Awards. Meyer revealed that he likes to share his enthusiasm with the kids and honorees by dancing with them on stage.

An avid Boston sports fan, the actor admits that he probably doesn’t have the skills to beat the perpetually-girating Rob Gronkowski in a dance off.

“I don’t think so,” Dempsey said. “I’ll let him have that championship, I’ll give him a good try though.”

If they ever went head-to-head in a racing challenge, however, the star would probably drive circles around the Patriots tight end. Dempsey is an accomplished auto racing driver and recently stepped away from his role as Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy to focus on the sport, in addition to spending more time with his family and working on the center.

Dempsey was a bit bummed that the planned IndyCar race was scrapped in Boston as the actor said, “I would love to race here.”

“Yeah it’s too bad. I think it would be good for the city,” Dempsey said. “It would be a good showcase, three courses, and to be able to do it you have to have the support of the community. Hopefully in the future.”

The actor stated that he’s learned a lot from auto racing, especially from his sponsors’ team approach to competition, which has changed his life “in a very profound, positive way.” Dempsey compared his experience with sports to the mission of Positive Tracks.

“Sports are a great thing. You learn a lot about yourself,” he said. “You push yourself past what your comfort level is and when you come out the other side and have success, it makes a huge difference in one’s life.”

Whether it’s helping people with the Dempsey Center or encouraging youth to stay active and give back, the actor says “it’s the most satisfying” feeling in the world to help those in need.

“I think there’s a lot we can do in our own community,” Dempsey said. “If there’s a need in your community and you see it, you recognize it—then act on it. That will bring more people to that cause.”

He added, “Where you can start to change the world is in your backyard.”