Murrieta firefighter Dean Hale has seen his share of battles with fires. Over the past eight years, he has been battling something much more dangerous to himself and his family: cancer.
“I was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2008, following an annual physical,” Hale wrote in a statement on a GoFundMe page organized by the Murrieta Firefighters Association. “Soon after, a test revealed it to be Stage 4, nonsmall cell lung cancer.”
After months of treatment and long drives to and from Santa Monica, Hale was told he was cancer-free, but it was not for long. Nine months later, he found out the cancer had returned to his neck and brain. Again, after half a year of treatment, he beat it.
Then, in 2018, he found out he was suffering from edema in his brain due to all the radiation, and cancer had appeared on his spine. Today, after proton therapy, he recovers, working on light duty.
In order to support their brother, the Murrieta Firefighters Association recently announced Hale as a beneficiary of the first-ever Murrieta Hilltop Festival, from 3-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at Heritage Hill in Murrieta.
“I met Dean when I was on (Murrieta) city council,” event organizer Alan Long said. “I’ve seen his selfless community leadership first hand. Even when he battled cancer the first few times, Dean continued to serve his community and fellow firefighters as their president. Dean is the epitome of public servanthood and his service to our community and fire service is second to none.
“I learned that Dean’s cancer had come back for a fourth time and felt I needed to do something. However, I didn’t want the firefighters to do all the work as they usually do. I wanted them to enjoy themselves and rally behind Dean,” Long said.
The event will feature local art, food and music with performances by singer/songwriter Tim Moyer, “America’s Got Talent” Golden Buzzer winner Makayla Phillips and will be headlined by Backroad Bridges.
The lineup also includes performances by Kevin and Elanna Acoustics, Jason Crook, Julia Lucius and Dylan Wager.
Moyer had planned to host the launch party for the MEG Acoustic Festival last month but canceled the event after talking with Long.
“I learned from (Long) that a local firefighter was in need so we merged the two together and set the date,” Moyer said. “The MEG, Moyer Entertainment Group and my nonprofit Acoustic Festival will be next May 2020 and will replace the Temecula Valley Bluegrass Festival. It is another music event to raise funds for local Murrieta school music programs and scholarships for music students.”
Moyer said it was important for his group to get involved.
“I and my nonprofit are and have always been, all about supporting the local community,” he said. “So, it makes perfect sense for me to help on this event.”
Long said firefighters rarely ask for help. Hale is no different. That’s why they had to act.
“They are programmed to help others even at their sacrifice, not receive help,” he said. “However, cancer seems all too common and there are many successful treatment programs that are not well-known and/or covered by insurance.”
Long said people should come out to help “a firefighter who has helped so many and to raise awareness of cancers that are not well-known while having a good time.”
“It is not only a great cause, but there will also be some great entertainment for the whole family,” Moyer said.
MFA is a nonprofit organization with a benevolent fund, called the Murrieta Firefighters Benevolent Fund, which exists to provide assistance and support to firefighters and families of firefighters in times of financial need or hardship due to unforeseen circumstances.
All proceeds from the Hilltop Festival will be donated to help with the cost of Hale’s medical treatment.
General admission tickets are sold out, but $15 tickets are available and include one beverage. For a $20 ticket, guests will get a beverage and one hors d’oeuvre. VIP tables for 10 people are available for $500 and include beverages and food for the whole table.
Tickets for the event can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com/e/hilltop-festival-tickets-64807295365. Donations can be made at the GoFundMe account page at www.gofundme.com/f/fighting-for-our-brother.
Heritage Hill is located at 28701 Los Alamos Heights Road in Murrieta.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at email@example.com.