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Started by a young Greek-American, Deano Kastis, United Greek Americans (UGA) has emerged into the most beloved organization for youth of Hellenic descent in the United States.
The Organization will be holding its second UGA party of the year in Chicago on Labor Day weekend, bringing together young Greek-Americans from all over the country for an incredible three days of food, fun, music, and dancing!
Besides the good times and unforgettable memories you can look forward to at this year’s Chicago UGA party, we spoke to founder Deano Kastis about another reason you should consider attending – the possibility of forming life-changing connections. As one Greek-American who has attended UGA, Lexi Surunis, said, “I found that the atmosphere at UGA is amazing…everyone is there for similar reasons..we love being Greek, love having fun, and we love celebrating where we come from!”
In fact, this atmosphere is part of the reason Deano thought about creating United Greek-Americans in the first place. “So many of our parents and our grandparents, I hear the stories of how they met at different Greek events here in the states; those kinds of get-togethers have decreased significantly and are attended only by older crowds, so it’s become tougher for people to meet other Greek-Americans in that way.”
The solution to all this? Create an event exclusively geared towards young Greek-Americans from all over the USA! As Ellie Perakis, UGA Director of Communications put it, “When someone attends any UGA event, they know there will be hundreds and hundreds of Greek-Americans from all over the country in attendance. Countless amounts of friendships and relationships have formed as a result of these events and it seems every year, tops the year prior.
We spoke to three pairs of Greek-Americans, two of whom recently got engaged and another that cemented best friends forever status, about how the UGA gatherings brought them together among thousands of other Greek-Americans and connected them in the most unexpected ways.
Ian Chambers and Vaso Katsifis – One Year Strong
Ian Chambers, a past Mr. UGA winner who will be celebrating his one-year anniversary at UGA Chicago with Vaso Katsifis, told us about how the lovely couple met. “Vaso and I met for the first time in Chicago last year but our story actually starts in Greece the August before UGA chicago 2016! Vaso was in Athens with her family on vacation and I had just gotten back from Santorini at my sister’s wedding. I was taking my American friends around sightseeing in Athens before we left Greece and Vaso spotted me from across the street while sitting at a cafe drinking a frappe with her mother!!
She knew me from UGA photos and mutual friends but didn’t have the courage to say hi hehe but instead snapped a picture to send to her friend to prove that she had actually seen me! That photo got forwarded to me but I didn’t receive it until I got back from Greece so we didn’t get to meet in person! But once I realized who it was I reached out and was very excited to find out she would be attending UGA Chicago. That Labor Day weekend when we actually met in person we had an incredible time together – shortly after that weekend we were official and we have been together ever since!” Ian and Vaso agree that “It’s true that UGA really does bring people together!”
Lexi Surunis and Nikki Theodora – Best Friends
Lexi gave us a bit of her backstory and her chance meeting with Nikki at UGA. “I am from Pittsburgh and last year was my first year going to UGA; I came with one of my friends and I only knew a couple of people who were going to be there. Once we got there, my friend introduced Nikki and honestly, we clicked right away! Nikki and I stayed in touch throughout the year (along with the rest of our UGA Fam) and we were so pumped to come back to Clearwater this year! She’s one of my best friends and I love that we might not see each other as often throughout the year, but when we are together it’s like we’ve known each other forever! We’re in the midst of planning for Chicago which I honestly cannot wait for!”
Nikki added “UGA is what keeps us together! We only live an hour away, but UGA is something we look forward to because we know we’ll be together and have a good time! I’m lucky to call her my friend and so happy UGA brought us together last year!”
Dimitra Lappas and John Kokolakis
Dimitra and John are both from Florida, from the Clearwater area; they knew of each other before, but they met for the first time last year in Clearwater Beach and started dating. They then came back to UGA Clearwater this year as a couple, and a few weeks after UGA they got engaged!
Dimitra told us that “John and I grew up in the same town and same church, Holy Trinity Clearwater; we reconnected through a mutual friend. Memorial day weekend was the first ‘public’ event we attended as a couple.” Most of all, she added, “UGA Memorial Day Weekend will always be a very special weekend for us.”
Giving BackUGA has expanded in size, reach and scope more than ever in 2017. The organization now hosts three events a year, Clearwater (Memorial Day weekend), Chicago(Labor Day weekend), and NYC (Christmas Party), while it has expanded its mission to add a “giving back” element to the community. UGA started their own scholarship fund several years ago and this past Memorial Day Weekend they awarded three $1,000 scholarships to Katerina Doumazios, Savvas Bournelis, & Petros Neophytou. Any additional funds raised are intended to help the Greek-American community through donations to various organizations as well as for individuals in need.
One more reason to attend the Greek party of the year:
if you decide to attend UGA Chicago this year, you can also make a potentially life-changing difference for another Greek-American. Deano told us about a regular UGA attendee, Kosta Flevaris, who was diagnosed with AML – a very aggressive form of cancer. Flevaris needs a bone marrow transplant and unfortunately his immediate family is not a match. The best chance he has for recovery is to find a full-Greek donor (full-Greek donors have a better possibility of being a match). UGA has started sponsored Facebook posts to try to find donors, and they are also going to do a bone marrow swab drive at Chicago upon check-in. You can also request a swab kit here if you think you can help. With just one simple cheek swab, you could change someone’s life.
So be sure to attend UGA Chicago this year (get your tickets here), where you will meet new friends or new loves that could change your life and support the youth of the Greek American community.