ALPHARETTA, Ga. - An organization based in Alpharetta is trying to help families across the country facing one of the deadliest types of cancer. The Purple Pansies nonprofit has already raised more than $4 million for pancreatic cancer resources, and the founder says this is only the beginning.
Maria Fundora's mother, Iluminada, was a light in her life and so many others. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May 2007 and died in September of the same year. Fundora turned her loss into action.
"It was really a horrible experience and I said, 'I don't want other people to go through what my family is going through,'" she told Good Day Atlanta's Lindsay Tuman.
Fundora started by holding a small fundraiser in her Alpharetta restaurant Casa Nuova. The first event raised a few thousand dollars, but it inspired her to do even more. So she started Purple Pansies as a nonprofit to raise money for resources for those battling pancreatic cancer. It became a 501c3 in 2017, bringing in money from sponsors and fundraisers to help people in a number of ways.
"We started raising money to support clinical research and the trials. We support families in need of immediate support that have been impacted by pancreatic cancer. I'm very proud of that piece, and just last year we launched our scholarship program to support children whose parents are fighting pancreatic cancer," Fundora said.
They host annual galas every September. It's their biggest event of the year, held near the anniversary of when Fundora lost her mother.
"Her memory in me and so many people encouraged us to fight to find a cure." she said.
Fundora said she hopes to grow Purple Pansies as a way to help raise awareness, provide more resources, and put more money toward research to help with early detection and treatments.
The annual Purple Pansies Gala is on Sept. 18. The organization also has a scholarship application open for students whose parents or guardians are battling pancreatic cancer. The applications are open through Sept. 15. You can find more information at purplepansies.org.