Project Purple takes huge strides forward

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Project Purple founder and Beacon Falls resident Dino Verrelli (in front) poses for a picture with the team that ran for Project Purple during the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 27. Project Purple raised more than $235,000 in 2013. –CONTRIBUTED
Project Purple founder and Beacon Falls resident Dino Verrelli (in front) poses for a picture with the team that ran for Project Purple during the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 27. Project Purple raised more than $235,000 in 2013. –CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — Project Purple continues to reach new heights.

When Beacon Falls Resident Dino Verrelli founded Project Purple, a nonprofit organization, in 2010 he hoped to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer and some money for research by running 13 half-marathons in 13 months.

This year, Project Purple raised over $235,000, gave two $35,000 grants towards medical research for pancreatic cancer and became charity partners in three of the four biggest marathons in America.

“It’s been pretty wild to see the growth of the foundation,” Verrelli said.

Verrelli said in 2012 Project Purple raised $72,000, which means that the organization has more than tripled its money in one year.

“We thought we were going to be this local charity. We’ve evolved to seeking out doctors that may need our help,” Verrelli said.

The organization, which operates under the leadership of volunteers, also named two new members to its Board of Directors this year which will help Project Purple extend its reach.  

Alex Palios, of Greenwich and Elli Zadina, of Seward, Neb., were both tapped as board members this year, Verrelli said.

Verrelli said Palios has been on the organization’s advisory committee for a while and has run races. Verrelli met Zadina when she ran in the Marine Corps Marathon for Project Purple.

“She expressed interest in getting involved in what we were doing. She loved our mission and loved our cause. However, being 1,500 miles away it’s not like we could hop in the cars and get together,” Verrelli said.

With Zadina on board, Verrelli said, Project Purple will begin a chapter in Nebraska this year.

“Running being our brand and Elli being a runner, it was a match made in heaven,” Verrelli said.

The organization was able to give out five scholarships in 2013 and continue its patient financial aid program, which helps families caring for someone with pancreatic cancer pay their bills, Verrelli said.

However, Verrelli wants to do more to help.

“[The scholarships and financial aid program] are tangible. It helps, but it doesn’t save lives,” Verrelli said. “Research is where it’s at. We have to work with doctors and crack these codes of pancreatic cancer.”

With the amount of money the organization has raised it was also able to give out two $35,000 research grants, one to Tufts Medical Center and one to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, both located in Boston, Mass., in 2013.

Verrelli said he hopes to give another grant out within the next two months. He said being able to fund the research is exciting because it means that Project Purple could play a part in finding a cure to pancreatic cancer.

Verrelli is hoping to raise $1 million in 2014, but is confident Project Purple will at least double what the organization raised in 2013.

Regardless of how much money the organization raises, Verrelli is determined to keep the way of raising money the same — running.

“I had this idea of starting a foundation when I saw how positive running was for me. I wanted running to be a part of that,” Verrelli said.

In 2013 Project Purple became charity partners in the New York Marathon, the Boston Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. These are three of the four largest marathons in America.

“We had over 200 runners run various races for us,” Verrelli said.

The organization had runners from 25 states, as well as from Canada and Australia, run both local and prestigious marathons.

Verrelli ran New York Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon, which were only seven days apart from each other.

Verrelli knows that marathon and half-marathon distances can seem daunting to some people. Going forward Project Purple is going to be involved in shorter distance races in addition to the marathons, Verrelli said.

The organization will also be a charity partner of the Spartan Race Series, which is an obstacle course race ranging between three and 10 miles, he added.

While his ultimate goal is to eradicate pancreatic cancer Verrelli realizes he has a long way to go and, as with a running a marathon, is pacing himself.

“We have to be patient. We want something to happen now, but we have to take a step back and realize the things we are doing now we will reap the rewards of finding a test or cure that will hopefully saves lives,” Verrelli said.