Celebrating 13 Years of Project Purple

Project Purple is an organization dedicated to its mission of creating a world without pancreatic cancer. Over the past thirteen years, our organization has worked to do our part by providing aid to patients and their families through several different peer-to-peer fundraising efforts. The progress we have made has only allowed our impact to grow stronger. 

Where it Began

Dino Verrelli, founder and CEO of Project Purple, never intended to start a charity. He had a fulfilling career in the financial sector and a beautiful young family. However, at the end of 2008, Dino’s family was dealt a devastating blow. Giovanni, Verrelli’s father, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  

Though Giovanni was able to get the Whipple procedure to remove the cancer, this was just the start of his cancer journey. In 2010, the cancer returned, and this time, the prognosis was grim. Dino did his best to take care of his father, to make sure he left nothing unsaid, but still, he felt like it wasn’t enough.  

Fueled by his commitment to his father, and by a desire to save others from the pain he and his family had experienced, Dino gathered together a passionate group of individuals to found Project Purple in September 2010.  

When Giovanni passed away on September 5, 2011, Dino made a promise to his father, vowing to persevere in the fight against pancreatic cancer. Today, Project Purple carries the story of Giovanni and so many others who have passed due to pancreatic cancer. Our organization is driven by hope and a shared commitment to honoring those who have lost their lives to make a lasting impact in the fight against pancreatic cancer.  

Project Purple Hits the Ground Running   

Verrelli’s father not only sparked the idea for the organization; he also inspired Project Purple’s focus on fitness. Dino found that running became a major coping mechanism for him as he struggled with his father’s diagnosis. The sport not only gave comfort to the grieving son but also provided a community of athletes who supported him throughout his journey.  This personal connection to both pancreatic cancer, and the interpersonal benefits of fitness, provided the foundation for the organization and all of its events.  

Project Purple first began by creating teams for several marathons around the country. Today, we are regular marathon partners in five of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, including Boston, Berlin, London, New York, and Chicago. We also host run teams for several other prestigious marathons and half marathons. For our full list of races, please click here

In addition to our racing schedule, we also have options for fundraisers to make an impact on other types of physical challenges. 

  • Our Push-Pull program encourages fundraisers to put their bodies to work for pancreatic cancer by hosting a fundraiser at their local gyms. 
  • The Pioneer Program provides athletes with the flexibility to participate in other events not sponsored by Project Purple, but still raise money for our organization.
  •  With the pandemic slowing down our fundraising efforts in 2020, Project Purple created our series of online events in the hopes of continuing to foster a strong sense of community among pancreatic cancer patients, despite the added challenge of social distancing.
  • To allow our fundraisers a little more agency with how they chose to support our mission, Project Purple created our Third Party Program. This program empowers fundraisers’ individuality and creative endeavors by making it simple to host their own Project Purple fundraising event. 

All of these events are designed to help make a difference in the lives of pancreatic cancer patients and their families. At the time of his diagnosis, Dino did not have access to a community that could help support him and his family through his father’s battle. Now, Dino and the Project Purple team have created these programs to not only fundraise for the fight against pancreatic cancer but also to build a community that can provide support to thousands of patients across the country. 

Impacting the Odds 

At the start of the new millennium, pancreatic cancer had about a 5% survival rate. After its founding, Project Purple has fought to raise that percentage. By 2019, the National Cancer Institute announced that the percentage had jumped to 12%. To continue to push that percentage higher, Project Purple has developed a robust research program, as well as providing direct financial support to patients.

To do our part in the fight against pancreatic cancer, Project Purple has invested over $3 million in research efforts already. With these funds, we have helped establish the PRECEDE study, the world’s largest high-risk consortium for genetic mutations linked to pancreatic cancer, and contributed to the foundation of Nebraska’s first high-risk clinic for pancreatic cancer. Our organization also has several grants of our own to be invested in various areas of research such as early detection methods, and curative treatment options. To learn more about our research initiatives, and some of our current projects, please click here.

We’re also dedicated to alleviating the financial burden of fighting this cancer so patients can focus on their recovery. Our Patient Financial Aid program has provided over $750,000 in financial aid to patients and families to cover medical bills, utilities, and housing costs while patients receive treatment. Since its inception, the program has provided much-needed assistance to over 1,200 families. 

In 2023, we have also launched a new program designed to assist families by providing them with free nutritious meals. We partnered with Nutré Meals to ensure that patients in the New England and Tri-State Area will get healthy meals delivered to right their door. Project Purple bought $100,000 worth of meals for patients, which Nutré will match, ensuring that patients never have to go hungry if they do not have easy access to food.  

Community Support  

As many patients know, giving back to the community can be rewarding, yet also very impersonal. This is why Project Purple has created several programs designed to bridge the gap between our organization and the patients we support.

One of our many unique and personalized programs is our Blankets of Hope initiative. Since its inception, our Blankets of Hope program began to provide care packages and custom Project Purple blankets to patients currently battling. The initiative is designed to provide comfort to patients by giving them a source of comfort, as well as helpful information and items that they may need throughout their journey. Since its inception, this program has sent out over 3,200 blankets to patients across the country, reminding patients that they are not alone in their fight against pancreatic cancer.

At Project Purple, we also believe that the key to creating a world without pancreatic cancer is awareness. That’s why we created the Project Purple blog and podcast, as well as our other social media accounts and even a YouTube channel. All these sites are designed to educate the public while sharing stories of courage, hope, and inspiration through various platforms in the hope of creating a community online that can support all those battling. Today, our blog has over 379 stories for our community to enjoy. Our Project Purple podcast has also produced over 250 episodes. Through these channels, we aim to spread positivity, and valuable information, and inspire others in their journey against pancreatic cancer.  

Project Purple could not be more proud of the impact it has made in the lives of patients and their families, or the strong network we have built to support all those suffering because of this disease. We could not be more thankful for the support and generosity we have received over the last thirteen years. Together, we can win the fight against pancreatic cancer. Here’s to another amazing thirteen years!

Follow Project Purple on Social Media

Previous story
No Place Like You: Alyssa Romano Runs for Project Purple In Honor Of Her Uncle
Next story
Thank You To Our First Over The Edge Hartford Team


Join us in our mission to support pancreatic cancer patients and families

With your help, we can make a difference in the fight
against this devastating disease. Learn more about
our programs and services, or make a donation.

Together, we can make a difference.