Get to Know Project Purple Ambassador Keelin Hodgkins DiMario

Keelin Hodgkins DiMario felt powerless and helpless when she lost her aunt to pancreatic cancer in 2009. Pancreatic cancer runs in the family, DiMario said. She’s lost her aunt, uncle, cousin, and great uncle to the disease. Although she’s lost so much because of pancreatic cancer, she’s made it her mission to do as much as she can to bring awareness to the disease. Joining Project Purple in 2013 has helped her do just that.  

When I lost my Aunt, I despised how powerless and helpless I felt during her battle. Project Purple has allowed me to feel like I am able to fight back against something that took one of the most important people in my life away from me,” DiMario said. “I no longer feel the same sense of powerlessness I felt 10 years ago.” 

DiMario has taken part in nine races, including the 2019 spring and fall Chicago Half Marathons, and is preparing to run the 2020 NYC Half Marathon.  

She’s done a little bit of everything when it comes to fundraising. She’s run calendar raffles, football squares, ran through the snow barefoot in her shorts and singlet, took a dive in her local lake for Freezin’ for a Reason, and worked with her local chamber of commerce to have local businesses and restaurants “go purple.”  

“I’m always trying to think of ways to think outside the box and try and tap into new donor pools,” she said. 

DiMario wants to bring awareness to pancreatic cancer with all that she does. She hopes that participating is all these events and fundraisers will make more people aware of the disease and the risks that come with it.  

“I think what is most important and what Project Purple does an excellent job at is educating the public on how their familial cancer history regardless of whether or not there is pancreatic cancer can put them at risk and educating people on genetic factors,” she said. “So many people that I encounter are unaware of the connection of the BRCA genes to pancreatic cancer.” 

DiMario says that her outlook on life has changed since losing multiple family members to this disease. She remembers to be grateful for every day and always give 100%. 

“It’s made me acutely aware that things can change in an instant. It’s important to show up every day and give 100%, it’s made me want to be the best version of myself possible,” DiMario said. “Every day that I can wake up and put two feet on the ground is a gift. To start a day vertical and breathing is a good day to have a good day.” 

DiMario made a promise to her aunt before she passed away. Her aunt asked her to never let her just become a picture on the wall. DiMario has used this as motivation to continue fighting and raising awareness for pancreatic cancer.  

“I am forever motivated to continue fighting for her and so many others like her. She couldn’t win her battle and I’ve made it my mission to do whatever I can to keep battling for her,” she said. “The miles I run and the funds I raise are critical to make the necessary changes so that early detection and a cure can be found, and we can see the survival statistics increase.” 

DiMario’s message to those who are battling pancreatic cancer is to keep fighting and remember that you’re not alone in this fight.  

“Don’t lose hope and keep fighting! If you feel like you’re losing hope take comfort in knowing that there is a large community of people out there like myself fiercely committed to battling this disease and having a world without pancreatic cancer,” she said. “You’re not fighting alone; I’m right there fighting with you!”  

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