Time out with T.O. - Running for a cure

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC public relations | May 01, 2015

Image with caption: Dino Verrelli is the founder of Project Purple, which has partnered with UNMC for pancreatic research.

Dino Verrelli is the founder of Project Purple, which has partnered with UNMC for pancreatic research.

Dino Verrelli is on a mission to stamp out pancreatic cancer.

The 40-year-old, who owns his own insurance/investment company in Beacon Falls, Conn., has firsthand experience with this deadly disease. His father, John, died from pancreatic cancer in 2011 after a three-year battle.

TIME OUT picture disc.
by Tom O'Connor

Dino was with his father throughout the ordeal, and it opened his eyes to one thing -- not nearly enough is being done for pancreatic cancer compared to other forms of cancer.

"There's just not enough money there," he said. "This disease is deadly -- 94 percent of people are dead within five years of diagnosis."

So, Verrelli decided to do something about it -- he created Project Purple, a non-profit with the goal of raising awareness and funding to help defeat pancreatic cancer.

Its primary objective is to support patients and families who have been directly affected by this disease. He does it in a variety of ways:

  • By providing financial assistance to families;
  • By providing scholarships to students; and
  • By providing research grants to post-graduate students who are proposing research into pancreatic cancer.

Almost all the money raised by Project Purple comes from people participating in running events.

On Sunday, Verrelli will be at the Lincoln Marathon. Project Purple is the sole charity that will receive funding from the event, as 83 runners in all will be pounding the pavement for Project Purple.

Two of the runners will be Tony Hollingsworth, Ph.D., a UNMC pancreatic cancer researcher, and Mike Boyer, director of global relations for the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

Verrelli is in awe of the work of Dr. Hollingsworth's team. "My philosophy is to work with the best," he said. "Tony is one of the best in the world -- not just the country. Tony's a great person. He has passion for what he does, and he has compassion for people with the disease."

Verrelli has shown his gratitude by providing a $150,000 research grant to Dr. Hollingsworth's lab and a $10,000 research fellowship to Arokia Priyanka, a graduate student researching pancreatic cancer.

This year, with funds raised at the Lincoln Marathon, Verrelli will provide a $56,000 one-year scholarship to a UNMC research fellow.

"We want to get more people interested in the disease," he said. "How do you do it? You pay them."

And run like crazy.


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Jessica Kozel, MD; Anatomic Pathologist in Dept of Pathology/Microbiology
May 01, 2015 at 10:46 AM

Thanks for all your commitment - Tony Hollingsworth & Mike Boyer!!