Harvest for Hope fundraiser hopes to reap $130K for families fighting cancer

San Diegans Richard and Diane Nares lost their son to cancer, but Emilio’s memory lives on through the foundation they started to help other families in need. To continue to support families throughout the region, the couple invite the community to the foundation’s 12th annual “Harvest for Hope” fundraiser Sept. 13 at the San Diego Central Library.

“The organization came about because we were so aware of how devastating this journey is,” Diane Nares said. “We had strong support systems all around us, but so many others don’t.”

The Emilio Nares Foundation was created in 2003, two years after the couple lost their 5-year-old son, who died in 2000 after a three-year battle with leukemia.

“We couldn’t walk away from this,” Nares said. “We saw so much, and there is such great need.”

For more than a decade, the nonprofit has transported children and their families to and from chemotherapy appointments, checkups, blood transfusions and other types of treatment involved in the fight against cancer.

The idea for the foundation stemmed from the countless hours the couple spent at Rady Children’s Hospital, then called Children’s Hospital of San Diego, helping their son in his fight.

During that time, they got to know other families also fighting cancer. Many families, Nares said, relied on public transportation and struggled to pay extra bus fares.

“As hard as it was, much of our journey was picked up and covered. As we fell, the community picked us up,” she said. “We wanted to establish the foundation so we could raise funds to create a variety of programs and services that take care of very basic and simple needs.”

The couple started offering rides to families in need, but within weeks, there were more requests than they could handle. From there, they raised enough funds in the first year to purchase a van, hire a driver and provide free transportation.

Since then, the foundation has grown to two full-time drivers and two vans in San Diego. On average, the foundation provides transportation for about 40 children and their families to Rady every week, Nares said.

With another fulltime driver and a 15-passenger van, the program has also expanded to transport children and their families to and from Children’s Hospital of Orange County. More recently, hospital rides are now being offered for residents of Imperial County.

In addition to transportation, the foundation offers a variety of other resources, including the Family Resource Center at Rady, where families can research cancer and access information on housing, employment, financial aid and other forms of assistance.

“We can help with the really simple needs that people take for granted,” Nares said.

The foundation’s largest annual fundraiser, Harvest for Hope, started 12 years ago, when a group of local chefs, including Jeffrey Strauss, owner and chef of Solana Beach-based Pamplemousse Grille, decided to do something to support the Emilio Nares Foundation.

Nares has known a number of the chefs for some time, as she has worked in the food and wine industry for 25 years.

“I can’t imagine anything more painful than losing a child,” Strauss said. “Diane and her husband mean the world to me. They are two kind and giving people. It was a no-brainier. I couldn’t wait to help out.”

This year, Strauss said, he and his team are planning to present a dessert buffet at the event.

“I enjoy giving back to the community,” Strauss said. “The community supports us so much. If I didn’t have the support of the community in San Diego, we couldn’t do the things we do.”

With a $130,000 fundraising goal, this year’s Harvest for Hope will include gourmet food and beverage stations, a live and silent auction, and entertainment by local musicians Lori Bell and Ron Satterfield. In addition to Pamplemousse Grille, other featured restaurants include Acqua Al 2, AR Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Brooklyn Girl, Café Chloe, Carnitas’ Snack Shack, Croce’s Park West, Don Chido, JSix at Hotel Solamar, Rustic Root, Toast Enoteca and many more.

New this year, Snake Oil Cocktail Company will pour donated spirits, craft beers and wines from all over the world.

“Great food, great people and a great cause — I can’t imagine a better reason to come out,” Strauss said. “It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

“Harvest for Hope” takes place 1-4 p.m. Sept. 13 on the ninth floor of San Diego Central Library, at 330 Park Blvd. Tickets cost $135 each or $1,000 for 10 people.

For more about Harvest for Hope, visit