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  • Posted Wednesday October 6, 2021

Annual Purple Pansies gala raises more than $1 million for TGen research

Focus on pancreatic cancer stems from a daughter’s dedication to honoring her mother

ATLANTA — Oct. 6, 2021 — Purple Pansies, a pancreatic cancer nonprofit organization, recently held its 12th annual Pillars of Hope Gala, presented by Kroger, raising more than $1 million in one evening to help fund pancreatic cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope.

The gala was officially renamed Pillars of Hope this year by Purple Pansies to show support for survivors and the hope to cure pancreatic cancer.

Maria Fundora, who founded Purple Pansies in 2008, holds the gala each September in honor of when she lost her mother, Iluminada Milian, in 2007.

“She fought so hard,” Fundora said. “When I lost her three months after diagnosis I could not just sit still. I had to do something. I had to fight, to be able to find a way to help others, so others would not go through what my family went through.”

The evening included a presentation of the inaugural Pillars of Hope Bill Palmer Legacy Award.

The award honors the late Bill Palmer (founder of Applebee’s) for his pioneering support of Purple Pansies and his own courageous fight with pancreatic cancer. For the first year of this award, Tim Brown, President of Kroger’s Atlanta division, was honored for his involvement and service, both personally and professionally. 

“Kroger and our partners are excited to be involved with Purple Pansies and Pillars of Hope and to be able to assist in raising money for this organization.  I was truly honored to be recognized and receive the Bill Palmer Legacy Award,” Brown said. “My wife, Angie, and I look forward to supporting this organization in the future.” 

According to the American Cancer Society, research for pancreatic cancer is one of the least funded of all cancers.

To date, Purple Pansies has raised over $4 million to support research and clinical trials through TGen.

“We have learned people are coming in earlier to diagnose pancreatic cancer.” said Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, M.D., Distinguished Professor in TGen’s Molecular Medicine Division. “Stage 1a early pancreas cancer 5-year survival rates have grown from 45% to 84% due to awareness with events like this gala.”

During the gala, Dr. Von Hoff was featured in a video, describing how pancreatic cancer treatments are improving, and providing details of a current clinical trial of patients on a ketogenic diet. He encouraged the fight and displayed a purple bracelet made by Lana Stowell, a local Alpharetta, Ga., youth. Everyone in the audience received one of the more than 200 bracelets made by Lana to join us together as a community.

Dr. Andrew Page, M.D., director of surgical oncology and HPB surgery at Piedmont Healthcare, spoke about the unique fight of pancreatic patients: “They all share in common their trust in me which I treasure and their warrior spirit which I honor … Let’s keep going.”

During the evening, Purple Pansies officially announced the launch of their scholarship program for high school seniors who have a parent, guardian or are themselves suffering from pancreatic cancer. Their goal is to continue support of families across the nation that have been affected by pancreatic cancer.

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Media Contacts

Melissa Smallwood
Purple Pansies
[email protected]

Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
[email protected]

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