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Zeman shares award with all volunteers

Katie Rentschler, right, presents Ron Zeman with the American Cancer Society’s Hero of Hope award.

When Lori Bachmann read the criteria for the Regional Hero of Hope award offered through the American Cancer Society, she immediately thought of one man.

Ron Zeman, Detroit Lakes, was presented the Hero of Hope award for his volunteer work with the organization and his support of its mission.

“He has been willing to share his personal cancer story, and his wife’s story as well, with business groups, local clubs and organizations, as well as the media,” said Bachmann, American Cancer society community relations spokesperson for the Minnesota region.

“He is very passionate about sharing the support he and Joan received through the American Cancer Society and our Hope Lodge, and wants others to know that help is available.”

Zeman said there’s an American Cancer Society saying that goes, “Having cancer is hard. Finding help shouldn’t be.” After dealing with cancer three times within his family, Zeman has stepped up to become a big supporter and promoter of the organization and what it has to offer.

“They help anybody, from all walks of life, whether you’re rich, poor, whatever it may be,” he said of the American Cancer Society.

“The biggest thing people don’t realize is how they help out with Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge is unbelievable. They do so much for helping people there.”

Both Zeman and his wife, Joan, have dealt with cancer. Zeman had prostate cancer twice, and Joan died of brain cancer a year ago. While spending time in Rochester for Joan’s treatments, they stayed at the Hope Lodge for five months, he said.

“You stay there for absolutely no cost,” he said of Hope Lodge. “If you want to make a donation when you leave, that’s up to you, but there’s no pressure.”

He said it’s hard to put into words, but the camaraderie felt at Hope Lodge is a saving grace, too, not just a place to sleep.

From Becker County alone, people stayed 516 nights at a Hope Lodge in 2012. There are two Hope Lodge sites — Rochester and the University of Minnesota campus in the Twin Cities.

On average, 180 residents of Becker County are diagnosed with cancer each year. About 66 of those will lose the fight against cancer, he said of local statistics.

Zeman said there are great volunteers from the American Cancer Society that help drive cancer treatment patients to appointments, help coordinate Relay for Life and more throughout the year.

“I can’t say enough about those people that help all the time. It’s almost unbelievable that these people do live right here in Becker County,” he said.

The American Cancer Society, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year, has donated $3.8 billion for cancer research since 1946.       “Every day, they’re trying to find a cure for it. Someday they’ll find it. It’ll be just like when they found the vaccine for polio,” Zeman said.

“It is painful for him to share the story of his wife’s cancer, but he does it anyway, willing to go through his pain in order to bring awareness to people, to thank our volunteers, and to encourage others to get involved,” Bachmann said.

When Zeman received his award, she said that he had the opportunity to speak to about 90 Relay for Life volunteers from all over the northern half of Minnesota.

“He was able to inspire and motivate those people to continue their work with American Cancer Society Relay for Life events in many Minnesota communities,” Bachmann said.

And regardless of how honored he may be to receive the award, he said it’s really meant for all the American Cancer Society volunteers of Becker County.

“That award, I’m sharing with everyone in Becker County who works with the American Cancer Society,” he said. “I’m really appreciative of getting this award, but I feel it really belongs to everybody in the county that’s helped over many, many years. All I am is the messenger, letting people know there is help out there.”

For more information on the American Cancer Society, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit