Daffodils symbol of hope for many

For many people, the blooming of the brightly colored daffodil is a sign of spring's return. But for those battling cancer, the sunny yellow flower has also become a sign of hope.

For many people, the blooming of the brightly colored daffodil is a sign of spring's return. But for those battling cancer, the sunny yellow flower has also become a sign of hope.

Every year since 1973, the American Cancer Society's spring Daffodil Days fundraiser has brought in millions of dollars for cancer research, treatment and support programs across the country.

And every dollar raised makes a difference.

"Our community is making a difference against cancer, one daffodil at a time," says Dorothy Poffenberger, a Daffodil Days volunteer with the American Cancer Society of Becker County.

"Thanks to the overwhelming support we have received for Daffodil Days, the American Cancer Society is helping people facing cancer, saving lives and empowering all of us to fight back against the disease," she added. "We are sharing hope and making meaningful strides against the disease."


One person who has experienced the American Cancer Society's support first hand is Ron Zeman. The Detroit Lakes city alderman and Norby's Department Store vice president has battled cancer since 2002.

After undergoing successful treatment for prostate cancer, Zeman was in remission until 2006, when it came back with a vengeance, spreading to outside his colon.

His doctors at the Mayo Clinic told Zeman that he would have to spend the next 3½ months undergoing treatment in Rochester.

"I told the doctors, 'I don't think I can do that,'" Zeman said. "But I had no choice."

His first concern, of course, was where he would stay during the next three months. Fortunately, Zeman's pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Rev. Ann Newgard-Larson, had relatives in Rochester who agreed to let him stay with them.

But he didn't want to impose on them for such a long period of time, so Zeman looked into other housing options as well.

It was then that he learned about the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodges -- one of which happens to be located in Rochester.

The first ACS Hope Lodge was opened in Charleston, S.C., in 1970. Since that time, the Cancer Society has opened lodges in 22 states -- including two in Minnesota (the other one is in Minneapolis).


Each Hope Lodge offers cancer patients and their families a free, temporary place to stay when their best hope for effective treatment may be in a city far from home. Not having to worry about where to stay or how to pay for lodging allows Hope Lodge guests to focus on the most important thing -- getting well.

But because it is free of charge, the facility always has a lengthy waiting list -- and cancer patients can't add their names to that list until after their first treatment at Mayo, Zeman noted.

Fortunately, he was able to stay with the Larsons until a spot at the Hope Lodge opened up.

"When I started (treatment), there were 84 people ahead of me (on the waiting list), Zeman said. "I was fortunate. I stayed with the Larsons -- Jerry and Darlene -- for three weeks before I was able to get into Hope Lodge."

When his name finally came up to the top of the list, Zeman was contacted a few days before he was able to move in. He got a tour of the facility and learned that it was much more than just a place to stay.

Because the other people who were staying at the Lodge were also undergoing cancer treatment, they were able to provide each other with support and comfort.

"Staying at Hope Lodge opened my eyes up to what the effects of cancer really are," Zeman said. "The group I was with -- 31 of us -- were all in stage 4 (of the disease). There are seven of us left today."

But Zeman said he remains close with all of those other six people. "You can form lifelong friendships there," he added.


Though patients staying at Hope Lodge are able to bring along a caregiver to support them -- and some are required to, because of the level of care they need -- Zeman said he told his wife to stay back in Detroit Lakes, where he came back to visit on weekends.

Since he completed treatment, Zeman has continued to undergo blood screenings once every six months. His most recent diagnosis was that the cancer was "undetectable" -- which isn't the same as being cancer free, Zeman noted.

But he's philosophical about the possibility of it coming back, noting, "I'm one of the fortunate ones...

"After seeing what cancer can do to a person, I remembered this saying: 'Never regret growing old. It is a gift that is denied to many,'" Zeman added.

"It's hard to see people in their 20s, with brain cancer, and they have little kids at home," he said.

Zeman became a little teary-eyed as he talked about how the guests at Hope Lodge "came from all walks of life" -- yet they all supported each other, sometimes even paying for meals for those who couldn't afford them.

"Young and old, rich and poor, it makes no difference to the American Cancer Society, because you are not charged anything to stay at Hope Lodge -- nothing at all," he said. "They provide a free, supportive place to call home during a patient's treatment for cancer."

But the ability of Hope Lodge to fund their guests' stay is only made possible "because of the generosity of so many donors," Zeman noted. "Big or small (donations), it all helps."


That's why the annual Daffodil Days fundraising event is so important, he added.

It's about more than just giving pretty flowers to someone; it's about providing much-needed funds to support the ongoing battle against cancer.

Daffodils can be pre-ordered from American Cancer Society volunteers until Feb. 11; the flowers will be distributed March 8-9.

A limited number of bunches will also be available for direct sale at Detroit Lakes' Central Market during the week of March 7.

A $10 donation will buy a bunch of 10 flowers; mini-daffodils, which can be re-planted, are also available for $15.

A $25 donation will buy a Gift of Hope bouquet or a special "Bear and a Bunch," which includes Liv N. Hope, a special Boyd's Bear designed exclusively for the ACS Daffodil Days event.

For more information, or to purchase daffodils, please contact ACS volunteer Lori Bachmann at 218-847-4725.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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