Donation is largest yet for growing nonprofit

Project Purple founder and CEO Dino Verrelli, right, talks with Hogwarts Running Club founders Brian and Dawn Biggs on Dec. 28 at Project Purple’s office in Beacon Falls. The Hogwarts Running Club donated $133,693 to Project Purple, the largest one-time donation the nonprofit has received. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — Project Purple marked yet another milestone last week, as the nonprofit received its largest donation to date.

The Hogwarts Running Club, a Guilford-based nonprofit, made a donation of $133,693 to Project Purple on Dec. 28.

Project Purple is a Beacon Falls-based nonprofit organization that is dedicated to raising awareness and funds toward a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Project Purple founder and CEO Dino Verrelli said the club’s gift is the largest one-time donation the organization has received since it began in 2010.

“You always dream big and I’ve always believed in this, what we’ve become. We had so much growth in the last two years. I truly believe we can consistently stay true to our roots, where we are this small charity but we are trying to do big things,” Verrelli said.

The money will go towards the pancreatic cancer early detection protocol program at the University of Nebraska, Verrelli said.

“When I realized the numbers were that big I said we are going to put this money to work. We want it to be meaningful. We want it to be impactful. We don’t want it to go for overhead. We want it to go to help people,” Verrelli said.

The early detection program studies people who are at high risk for pancreatic cancer. This includes people who have type three diabetes, pancreatitis, benign tumors, or a history of the disease in their family.

“These early detection protocols are really fascinating because we are studying people we know statistically are going to get the disease, we just don’t know when,” Verrelli said. “We know time is the biggest factor in this disease. The more time we have with people the better we are at prolonging their life.”

This was also a record year for the Hogwarts Running Club, which raised $873,395 overall. Its largest donation was to Project Purple.

The running club is based on the Harry Potter books and movies. Hogwarts is the name of the wizarding school the Harry Potter character attends. The club is run by the husband and wife team of Brian and Dawn Biggs.

Last year, the club held a race called the Half-Blood Prince Half-Marathon named after the character Professor Severus Snape, who is the half-blood prince in the Harry Potter series.

Actor Alan Rickman, who played Snape in all of the Harry Potter movies, died of pancreatic cancer last January.

“This one was special for our members because when Alan Rickman passed away at the beginning of the year he passed away from pancreatic cancer. Our entire community was devastated,” Dawn Biggs said.

Brian Biggs said the half-marathon was the biggest event the running club held, and he wanted to donate the money to a nonprofit that focused on pancreatic cancer.

Verrelli said the donation could have a direct impact on the lives of people with pancreatic cancer.

“Research is a tough thing because you are making investments in science they may not ultimately result in what we hope. But we have to have the ability to do that and these guys are helping us make those investments,” Verrelli said. “If someone is being studied and we find early on they have the disease we could potentially prolong their life and maybe save their life. But if we didn’t have this protocol in place, because of the funds you guys have provided, it wouldn’t happen.”