WHITEWATER TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - A sold-out crowd of more than 1,000 people packed a benefit Saturday night for three local law enforcement veterans battling Stage 4 cancer.
Proceeds raised during "Benefit for Blue Against Cancer" at the Woodlands Banquet Center will help two deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, Michael Ware and Tony Kelly, and recently retired Harrison Officer Marvin Gambill.
All three are undergoing nearly weekly chemotherapy treatments amid mounting medical costs and other expenses.
The outpouring of support overwhelmed and touched all three men. At one point, Gambill wiped tears rolling down his cheeks as he watched the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Pipe & Drum Corp play in a ceremony that kicked off the event.
"This is great," Ware said. "All these people here for the support is just wonderful."
"We have a history of doing for other people our whole lives," Gambill said. "Now people are doing for us. I don't know about the other guys, but it's a little uncomfortable for me. It's put me a little outside my comfort zone. It's very much appreciated, but a different feeling altogether."
Captain Rick Neville with the sheriff's office organized the benefit along with his wife, Donna.
Together, the couple has run seven other fundraisers that have raised more than $250,000 to help sick law enforcement officers and their families since 2008.
Gambill and Ware, who patrols Lincoln Heights, have pancreatic cancer that has spread to their livers.
Kelly, who works in the court services division of the sheriff's office, has been battling cancer for two years.
He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mantel Cell Lymphoma in 2015.
During a doctor's visit earlier this year, Kelly learned his cancer has spread to his lymph nodes, stomach and liver, according to sheriff's officials.
Kelly received more bad news this week.
Doctors told him chemotherapy treatments would take eight months, not four as originally anticipated.
The youngest of his three children is 16 and attends a local Catholic high school.
Organizers were hoping to raise enough money Saturday night to pay off the tuition this year for Kelly's son.
Kelly and Ware are still working for the sheriff's office but on medical leaves at the advice from their doctors.
"It takes it out of you," Kelly said of battling cancer. " You have your good days and your bad days. Luckily this seems like a good day for all of us. I'm sure something like this (benefit) helps."
Gambill's cancer forced him to retire in October, just two months shy of his 30th anniversary with the Harrison Police Department.
He was honored with a plaque and three standing ovations at Tuesday night's Harrison council meeting.
Once the applause ended, though, he wound up in the emergency room until 3 a.m. after spiking a high fever of 102.7.
To make sure the Gambills made it safely to and from the benefit as light snow turned some roads slick Saturday night, D. C. Thompson, a local limo driver known as "DC Limo Guy," drove them for free.
"The officer has dedicated his life to protecting the citizens of the community and they don't get a thank you as often as they should," Thompson said.
"When somebody is sick with cancer like this, I just feel like it's my duty to transport them to events to honor and respect them and to show them my appreciation for all they have done."
Ware and his fiance, Kimberley, are supporting four children who range in age from 4 to 17.
The couple hopes to get married soon.
He just finished a fourth round of chemotherapy and is waiting for results from his latest scans.
He is hopeful they will show the treatment is working to shrink multiple tumors on his liver and one on his pancreas.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the more deadly cancers because by the time it is diagnosed, it is in advanced stages.
Raymond Reuss, a former firefighter, knows that only too well.
He is the owner of the banquet facility where the benefit took place.
His wife died from the disease, so he always generously opens his doors to assist Neville and his wife when they hold benefits.
If you missed this weekend's benefit, there are other ways to still contribute.
Each have benefit accounts:
Or, you can contribute to "Blue Against Cancer" account for all three men at the Cincinnati Police Federal Credit Union, 959 W 8th St, Cincinnati, OH 45203.
Checks should be made payable to "Blue Against Cancer."
In addition to the credit union's Queensgate location, there are branches in:
- Colerain Township: 3550 Springdale Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio 45251
- Reading: 9231 Reading Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio 45215