Back in 2015, Naples local George Vooris decided to run in a 5K race in Lewiston, which happened to be put on by the Dempsey Center for a fundraiser called the Dempsey Challenge. It was an effort to get back in shape and see how he ranked among the thousands of other participants, but what he got out of it was so much more.
It was after seeing all the other runners and walkers surrounding him, who were battling cancer that he realized it didn't matter what place he came in or what his personal time was. His being there meant more than that. The will and strength of the people in the race made him forget about his aching back and his painful ankles and changed the entire meaning of the event and the whole reason he was participating.
|George with his wife Janis and Patrick Dempsey|
It was then he decided to change the course of his thinking and become not only a participant, but an advocate for the event's underlying cause. After learning about its many benefits to the community, Vooris set out to be an independent fundraiser for the Dempsey Center itself and help in any way he could. While asking people to donate money to the foundation and bringing his friends and family to the race in Lewiston was doing something positive, he felt it wasn't enough. He wanted to go bigger.
That very same year, Vooris founded the Naples Causeway 5K, a local family-fun walk or run that would go through his own hometown. It would benefit not only the Dempsey Center, but his own local food pantry, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s, and police and fire departments; and it would bring the community of Naples together as a family in a common cause of fighting cancer.
He never realized what a positive impact his event would have, bringing in hundreds of participants and local sponsors from all over, who were more than happy to give their participation and support. All of Vooris’ effort and hard work in making his vision a reality has brought out the best in the people of his community and continues to amaze him as it grows each year.
To date, Vooris has raised nearly $50,000 with his 5K race and in 2017, was the top independent fundraiser for the Dempsey Challenge. He was also the recipient of the Naples Volunteer of the Year Award for 2017 and credits these unexpected achievements to his loving community for making it all possible.
For Vooris, he is humbled by all of the support and recognition he has received over the years and is still excited to be the director of the Naples Causeway 5K, which is only in its 4th year. He likes seeing the locals sporting their 5K t-shirts around town and enjoys the fame he has garnered, only to use it to further promote his race which is growing bigger every summer. He continues to volunteer at his local food pantry and holds fundraising benefits throughout the year while spreading the message about how important it is to give what you can to those who need the help.
On a sad note, Vooris recently lost his little brother Danny to cancer, which only served to strengthen his resolve in making a difference and prevent others from experiencing the loss of a loved one. He wants to remind us all that everyone has been or knows someone affected by cancer, and the best way to help out is to participate and sign up.
The 4th Annual Naples Causeway 5K is on August 25th at the Naples Marina on Route 114 and you can find Vooris running the course this year in the honor and memory of his little brother.
If you would like to donate to his cause or register to run in the race, you can head to or for more information on how you can help this great cause.