When Harvest of Hope originated in 2005, its purpose was to benefit Financial Assistance for Cancer Treatment, an organization that was helpful to Dean Vogel Jr. of Bascom. He had been diagnosed and treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma in autumn of 2004 and wanted to show appreciation for FACT.
At the same time, he wanted to do something to help other families coping with cancer.
He and his family, who own Rock Run Bulk Foods and Services in Tiffin, decided to host a dinner and donate the proceeds to FACT. The word "hope" became an acronym for "Hands Of People Everywhere."
The event has "mushroomed," in Dean's words, and is about to take place for the seventh year. Last year, they donated $8,000, and the goal for 2011 is $12,000.
For the first three years, Harvest of Hope happened at the Junior Fair Building at the Seneca County Fairgrounds, but the gathering outgrew that venue and moved to Meadowbrook Ballroom in Bascom.
As for Vogel, he has been doing well since 2005 and has remained cancer-free beyond "the five-year window" during which the cancer most likely would return.
Barb Vogel, Dean's mother, said an inoperable tumor on her son's aorta was discovered in September 2004. After about four months of chemotherapy and radiation, the tumor disappeared, much to his doctor's amazement.
"The doctor said, 'I have no explanation, but it's gone.' He did continue his treatments, to make sure everything was good," Barb said.
"(Cancer) is projected to be, by 2020, the leading treatable disease, and there's not going to be enough doctors and medical personnel to go around. ... treating is one half of it. The cost of treating is the other half," Vogel said. "I was very fortunate to have good medical insurance and supplemental insurance. The total of all my treatments and hospitals, when it was all said and done, was $170,000. I came out of it having to pay $15,000."
Cancer had a more serious impact on the family in 2006. Dean Vogel Sr. was diagnosed with colon cancer, and two Harvest of Hope volunteers also were diagnosed with other forms of the disease.
Dean Sr. underwent surgery and recovered well, but in December 2008, a melanoma developed on his back. Although it was removed surgically, the cancer returned in November 2009 and spread into his chest cavity.
He died in March 2010.
"I also lost a brother to cancer and a mother. I have another brother who is a cancer survivor. Dean's uncle and aunt also had cancer. The one uncle is cancer-free and doing well. The other ones have passed on," Barb Vogel said.
The Vogels have made many friends through Harvest of Hope, including Bill Tate and his family. Kyla Tate, 5, is in treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Mercy St. Vincent Children's Hospital in Toledo.
"She was diagnosed Jan. 31 last year. She's on maintenance right now," Bill said. "We used to go almost every week."
Although Bill had contemplated staging a benefit specifically for Kyla, he said it is more important to raise money for organizations that help local families.
He has been unable to obtain assistance from the American Cancer Society, which told him to pursue other options before it would help.
"I could use the money, but FACT and Just For Kids are the ones that need the help," Tate said.
"Having good health is probably worth a million dollars," Vogel said. "I guess the biggest point is, you think of cancer as people having it that are older, and it is not like that. I was 34 at the time. It does make you re-think your priorities. The bucket list order of priorities changes."
Harvest of Hope remains high on the priority list for the Vogel family, which includes Dean's siblings, Tami Staib and Duane Vogel and their family members. The Vogels also have a group of regular volunteers who decorate the hall, obtain door prizes and auction items, prepare and serve the food and do many other tasks.