Fundora makes year-end goal: raises $1 million for pancreatic cancer

Maria Fundora’s campaign against pancreatic cancer raised another $1 million in 2022 to put into research and to help families dealing with the disease.

“I am beyond myself,” Fundora, owner of Alpharetta’s Casa Nuova Italian restaurant, said recently. “I could do cartwheels.”

Fundora started the all-volunteer Purple Pansies in honor of her mother, Iluminada Milian. Milian died in 2007 of pancreatic cancer, the third-leading cause of cancer death in the nation, behind lung and colorectal cancers.

“I know there’s a heaven, and she’s so happy that we’re able to help so many people in her memory,” Fundora said.

With the $1 million collected in 2022, the all-volunteer Purple Pansies has now raised more than $5 million, the vast majority of which has gone into research on early detection.

Fundora said a flurry of end-of-the-year giving, including one $40,000 donation, as well as a large number of smaller donations, helped put the fundraising drive a few thousand over its goal.

She credited The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which spotlighted her efforts in an Inspire Atlanta in September and again in its holiday project, “Everyday Heroes.”

“I really believe that helped us get that million, and I’m so appreciative,” Fundora said.

The majority of last year’s donations will go to funding a ground-breaking clinical trial, she said.

Some will go to scholarships to 10 students who have lost a family member to the disease. The $1 million also will enable the organization to continue its grants to families under financial stress due to cancer in the family, Fundora said.