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Nonprofit Purple Pansies raises more than $1 million for pancreatic cancer research during virtual gala
Maria Fundora founded Purple Pansies in 2009 shortly after her mother died from pancreatic cancer, which has the highest mortality rate of all types of cancers, according to a press release. -- Ben Hendren, Forsyth County News - photo by Ben Hendren

Local nonprofit Purple Pansies received more than $1 million in donations during its first virtual gala on Sunday, Sept. 20. 

Maria Fundora founded the organization in 2009 shortly after her mother died from pancreatic cancer, which has the highest mortality rate of all types of cancers, according to a press release. 

As one of the more common cancers, Fundora found that pancreatic cancer is often difficult to detect and to treat. Seeing that approximately 74% of pancreatic cancer patients do not survive the first year after diagnosis, Fundora and all of those involved in Purple Pansies have been motivated and driven for the past 11 years to drive that mortality rate down. 

Before the virtual gala, named “Seed to Harvest, Nourishing Our Communities, Purple Pansies event sponsored by Kroger,” the organization had already raised more than $2 million for pancreatic cancer research, and now the gala has pushed them to more than $3 million raised. 

“Kroger is proud to be the premier sponsor and advocate for the work of Purple Pansies,” said Tim Brown, Kroger Atlanta division president. “This event and organization have the opportunity to create impactful, life-saving research that will change the lives of many generations to come.” 

Much of the donations received during the gala will go toward the Translational Genomics Research Institute, helping to fund research, clinical trials and early detection procedures. Affiliated with City of Hope, the nonprofit is “dedicated to groundbreaking research with life-changing results,” according to the release. 

“Because of Purple Pansies we now have regimes of therapy that shrink patients’ pancreas cancer between 83-91% of the time, and we never thought that was possible,” said Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, TGen Physician-in-Chief. “Their funding of clinical trials enables us to get the best laboratory ideas to patients in need.” 

Although the novel coronavirus pandemic has created funding issues in nonprofits across the U.S., Purple Pansies has been getting creative with events such as the virtual gala to continue to fund cancer research even through the global health crisis. 

Fundora also owns Casa Nuova Italian Restaurant in Alpharetta where her and the team at Purple Pansies have also provided meals for healthcare workers at area hospitals and Kroger grocery store workers. 

Purple Pansies continues to try to work alongside the community to create change and continue to help increase the survival rate for pancreatic cancer patients. 

“Our mission is to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer, and provide research funding,” Fundora said. “We are also committed to aiding families in our community who have a family member suffering from this disease and can financially use our help.” 

For more information on Purple Pansies and their mission, visit