Benefit for Mission Hills couple’s nonprofit returns for 11th year
He lived a mere five years, but left an impact that will be multiplied many times over.
Fourteen years have passed since Mission Hills residents Richard and Diane Nares lost their only son to cancer. Two years prior, in 1998, Emilio had been diagnosed with leukemia. In the intervening two-year stretch, the Nares spent many days in hospitals.
When Emilio lost his brave fight to the condition, the Nares spent some time reflecting and recouping. Out of the tragedy, an idea was born, and it came to fruition three years after Emilio passed away.
With encouragement and support from family and friends, the Nares decided to establish an organization, the Emilio Nares Foundation. It provides assistance — including hospital transportation and meals — to families of children battling childhood leukemia and other forms of cancer.
Last year — the foundation’s 10th anniversary — was a milestone in ways beyond the timeline itself. The organization received national attention after being honored as one of CNN’s annual Heroes of 2013.
As with any non-profit entity, donor dollars ensure the mission statement carries through. Since its inception, the Emilio Nares Foundation has held an annual fundraiser, Harvest of Hope. It returns for the 11th consecutive year on Sunday, Sept. 7.
Diane, who has worked in the food and wine industry for more than 25 years, credits industry connections — including local chefs and restaurant owners — with encouraging her and Richard to establish the foundation and its annual fundraiser.
Harvest of Hope includes unlimited tastings from some of San Diego’s finest restaurants and beverage purveyors. The list of this year’s participants continues to be tabulated as the fundraiser draws closer. At least 40 establishments are expected to take part in the program.
One of the participants is Brooklyn Girl. The owners of the Mission Hills neighborhood-style restaurant has been involved with Harvest of Hope since its inception.
Michael McGeath, co-owner of Brooklyn Girl, has been a close friend of Richard and Diane for 35 years. He knew Emilio and witnessed the family’s trials over the years.
“Emilio was one of the most energetic boys I’ve known in all my life,” McGeath said. “He was a pure joy to be around. How could I not support something like this fundraiser?”
McGeath, who describes Richard and Diane as “very special people,” said Harvest of Hope is unique in that it brings so many culinary experts together in one setting.
“It’s always a great party and the fact it’s held at different venues [each year] throughout the county really makes it unique,” McGeath said. “This is a great way to recognize the amount of time [Richard and Diane] put into what they’re doing.”
In addition to food and beverages, other festivities at Harvest of Hope include a silent auction, musical entertainment and art exhibitions. Diane describes it as a “casually elegant” affair. This year’s event will be held at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Event Center located Downtown.
While Harvest of Hope is generally an upbeat, high-spirited affair, the underlying reason for the event, of course, is very serious.
One point Diane aims to constantly keep at the forefront of people’s minds is the number of children who are diagnosed with some form of cancer, which exceeds 10,000 each year, according to Kids v Cancer, a nonprofit supporting pediatric cancer research.
The prognosis for long-lasting treatments improves with each passing year. But the reality remains that one out of four children relapse.
Since most people know of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, Diane said it is not difficult to drive home the point about the strain childhood cancers have on families.
“It’s a difficult journey,” she said. “Hearing your child has cancer is one of the most difficult words you can hear from your pediatrician. Everyone’s hopes and aspirations come to a stop at that point.”
But the Emilio Nares Foundation aims to step in and help with some of the logistical matters, particularly for low income families who may have had difficulty making ends meet even before a diagnosis was made.
Diane said she and Richard learned greatly from Emilio during his courageous battle. That spirit and the helpfulness they received from family and friends encouraged them to pay it forward and pour their time and energy into the foundation.
“We’ve seen so much, and we know so much,” Diane said. “We want to help, and this has been a great way of paying tribute to Emilio.”
—Dave Fidlin has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years. Throughout his career, he has contributed to a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites across the nation. He has a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.