Father, daughter start ‘Project Unicorn’ to remember mom, support breast cancer research

A Henrico father and daughter are hoping to make a difference in the world of cancer research.
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 4:49 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2022 at 4:50 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) -A Henrico Father and daughter are hoping to make a difference in the world of cancer research. Drew and Emma DeMaree founded “Project Unicorn” in honor of their wife and mother, Kimberley.

She was an inspiration through her battle with inflammatory breast cancer, an aggressive form.

“Kimberley, going through her journey, every person, every medical professional called her the unicorn,” said Drew DeMaree. “She would go through treatment, she had 70 tumors in her brain--20 tumors in her body, ravaging her body, but she was constantly positive mindset, laughing, joking, she loved a few cuss words--she was that kind of woman.”

In October 2021, Kimberley wanted to share her story to help others during breast cancer awareness month. She found the cancer after developing a rash on her breast and later getting a biopsy. It was stage 3 when doctors found it, and it quickly became stage 4.

“Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red or inflamed,” according to the National Cancer Institute. “Inflammatory breast cancer is rare, accounting for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Most inflammatory breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas, which means they developed from cells that line the milk ducts of the breast and then spread beyond the ducts.”

Never defeated by her sickness, in 2021, Kimberley was living her best bucket list life. She traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the hot air balloon festival. The family traveled to Belize for ten days, and she had an opportunity to see one of her favorite musicals, Moulin Rouge, on Broadway.

Kimberley DeMaree
Kimberley DeMaree(Drew DeMaree)

On April 5 this year, Kimberley passed away after 14 months of battling cancer. Her daughter, Emma, says she is glad the two left nothing unsaid.

“I am really glad I got to share those moments with her even though she was sick. She never acted like she was sick,” said Emma. “She never made it seem something was wrong; she was the same mom I had my whole life. She was a great mom. You should value your mom a lot more than you think because she is there and then she is not. I would say it is important to communicate to your kids what’s going on because if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t value that time I had with her.”

As Drew and Emma navigate life without Kimberley, they are reminded of her often and determined to share her impact with others.

The two founded ‘Project Unicorn,” a non-profit to support breast cancer research and support those going through cancer and their families.

“My main thing is I just want research to be done because I feel like there should be a test to find all breast cancer, no matter the type, said Emma. “The type of Breast Cancer is not common. That is why I think she passed away so quickly because they didn’t have as many things to help her and her cancer as they do others.”

On Oct. 20, they will introduce ‘Project Unicorn’ to the world and host the inaugural Unicorn Ball.

“Throwing a ball, it is going to be fun. Moulin Rouge is the theme this year. The theme will be different every year to celebrate my wife’s love for love stories.” said Drew.

“We said we raise money, great, but what is this money going towards? Emma said ‘I want it to go towards research and go to specific things that I know will create a bigger impact.”

The Unicorn Ball is happening Thursday, Oct. 20, at Bartizan at West Broad Village in Short Pump. It will have hors d’oeuvres, live music and a charity auction. Proceeds benefit the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Network Foundation.

The Unicorn Ball
The Unicorn Ball(Project Unicorn)

“We wanted to create an opportunity if someone was suffering with cancer to encourage them like Kimberley would if she was here,” said Drew. “She would say you can always make a choice to be happy. You can always make a choice to have energy or put positive out in the world.”

To support Project Unicorn and attend the Unicorn Ball, you can click here.