Ohio-based effort supports TGen-led international pancreatic cancer research; plans for expansion in 2013

PHOENIX, Ariz. - May 16, 2012 - "Denim shock wave petunias" are blanketing northwest Ohio greenhouses this spring as advocates for TGen's pancreatic cancer research roll out a second year of their Plant Purple-Grow Hope campaign.

Throughout May and June, the Maumee Valley Growers and affiliated Toledo, Ohio-area greenhouse retailers will sell the purple petunias to raise funds for biomedical research at the Phoenix-based, non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

"It was a very big success last year. There was a lot of community support," said Kelly Kinney, who started Plant Purple-Grow Hope last year in honor of her brother, Bret Connors, a Scottsdale, Arizona, resident who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2009. "We're excited that it is continuing. It's only going to get bigger."

Kinney, who moved to Houston, from Toledo, in October, hopes to roll out the Plant Purple-Grow Hope fundraising drive in Texas and elsewhere across the nation next year.

Spearheading the drive this year in northwestern Ohio is Toledo native Deanna Bobak, who lost her father, Donald Swicegood of Toledo, to pancreatic cancer. He died only months after his diagnosis. Bobak said there is a need for earlier diagnosis of the disease.

"After he passed, I always wanted to do something about pancreatic cancer in the hopes that this would not have such a dire prognosis in the future," said Bobak, who met Kinney last year during the first Plant-Purple-Grow Hope drive. "I would really like to help make a difference; to help others down the road," Bobak said.

In addition, Kinney's sister, Megan Haan of Galesburg, Michigan, is hoping to organize a Plant Purple-Grow Hope campaign next year with neighboring growers in southwest Michigan's Kalamazoo County.

"I'm really proud of my sister for coming up with this idea. I know my brother, Bret, would be just so proud and delighted," said Haan, who works with another brother, Shawn Connors, in their health and wellness business, Hope Health, based in Kalamazoo.

Meantime, Joe Perlaky, Program Manager for the Maumee Valley Growers (MVGA), is gearing up to sell more plants with the color purple, the designated color for pancreatic cancer research.

"MVGA is essentially duplicating last year's effort, and we are considering expanding the program to larger retailers in 2013 by offering a greater variety of packaging ideas," Perlaky said.

Plant Purple-Grow Hope will set aside 50 cents for every 4.5-inch purple petunia pot sold by the non-profit Maumee Valley Growers and their partners, through June 30.

Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation, praised the continuing efforts of Kinney, her family, friends and growers. "It is truly remarkable what this amazing family and their generous friends have done to build and sustain such an innovative and environmentally-friendly campaign in the fight against pancreatic cancer," Bassoff said.

To launch a Plant Purple-Grow Hope program in your community, please contact Erin Massey at the TGen Foundation at 602-343-8470.

Proceeds will fund TGen and its Pancreatic Cancer Research Team (PCRT), which includes leading pancreatic cancer scientists, physicians and researchers, armed with the most technologically advanced tools and resources, at 46 top-flight medical research institutions worldwide.

Pancreatic cancer annually takes the lives of more than 37,000 Americans, making it the fourth-leading cause of cancer death.

Kinney said she believes Plant Purple-Grow Hope is a fitting way to preserve the memory of her brother, Bret, who is survived by his wife and three sons. For more on Bret's life, please visit: www.tgenfoundation.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=794.

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About Maumee Valley Growers
Maumee Valley Growers (MVGA) is an industry-based, not for profit association of regional greenhouse growers in northwest Ohio committed to working together to strengthen and sustain their local economy. The organization includes individual Maumee Valley growers, alike in offering top-quality local plants but distinct in location, product mix, and focus. MVGA engages in community activities involving nearly 70 floriculture greenhouses who employ 740 workers generating $100-$115 million in revenue for their area annually. For more information and a complete list of participating nurseries, visit: www.maumeevalleygrowers.com.

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