Running for a cause: the Dempsey Challenge

George Vooris

George Vooris

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Only a year ago, George Vooris could hardly get out of bed. Crippled in all of his joints by psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease, the 56-year-old Naples resident had all he could do to simply walk, let alone run.

All that changed, however, once he got on MaineCare and began receiving the medical attention he needed. He started walking, and working out at the gym. It wasn’t long before he was running, and it felt so good he started entering competitive races.

His first was at Crystal Lake. Then came the 4 on the Fourth, and the Moose Pond Challenge; it got so he couldn’t wait for the next race. Last fall, when he ran in the Dempsey Challenge, a 5K and 10K walk/run fundraiser to help people stricken with cancer, it seemed Vooris had found a special calling.

That particular race is all about hope for a healing, and Vooris could closely identify with its cause. So this year he’s starting early to raise as much money as he can for his 10K run. Aided by a cardboard cutout of Patrick Dempsey, the celebrity for which the Patrick Dempsey Center of Hope and Healing in Lewiston is named, Vooris has stationed himself for several weekends at Tony's Foodland in Naples, seeking pledges for this fall’s race.

Vooris also took part in the Tough Mudder, a grueling 10-mile obstacle course that raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

When he first started running long distances, he said, “I was so overwhelmed by the challenge, but now that I’m healthy and strong, I’m driven to do these benefits,” he said.

Tag and Bake Sale

In his biggest fundraising effort to date, Vooris has organized a Tag and Bake Sale, to take place Sunday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Singer Center in Naples Village. The adjacent United Methodist Church is helping out by providing plenty of baked goods for sale, and Vooris has assembled a goodly amount of reasonably-priced tag sale items.

He hopes residents will support his efforts by attending the sale and learning about the Dempsey Challenge while scouring the Center for treasures. If nothing else, those attending might find Vooris’s passion and enthusiasm for life more than a little inspiring.

“It shows you that you’re never too old to get up and get going,” he said. “Once you’re laid up for a year and a half, and then you get that freedom, you’re never going to slow me down.”


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