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Farming community helps cancer patient with harvest

Volunteers finish harvesting a cornfield in Genoa Saturday morning for Carol and Glenn Bolander. Carol has continued to fight breast cancer since she found out that her cancer had returned two years ago. Dozens of people helped the Bolanders finish harvesting their 380 acres of corn in a single day.
Volunteers finish harvesting a cornfield in Genoa Saturday morning for Carol and Glenn Bolander. Carol has continued to fight breast cancer since she found out that her cancer had returned two years ago. Dozens of people helped the Bolanders finish harvesting their 380 acres of corn in a single day.

GENOA – It's been a tough few years for the Bolander family of Genoa.

Carol Bolander is a 10-year cancer survivor who found out two years ago that her breast cancer had returned. As the Bolanders were preparing to start harvesting their cornfields this season, they got a call they weren't expecting: They learned that dozens of people from the farming community would be helping them harvest their 380 acres of corn Saturday.

Carol's husband, Glenn Bolander, was combining his soybean fields when he got the news.

"I sat in my combine and cried," he said. "I never expected this."

"The farming community just helps," Carol said. "It's unbelievable the support they give everyone. I'm speechless. I don't even know what to say."

Jim Jones of Sandwich, who helped organize the effort, said 25 semi trailer-tractors, 12 combines and 18 grain carts were in the Bolander's cornfields Saturday morning. So many volunteers showed up that they were able to complete the harvest in half a day. Glenn said harvesting his nearly-400 acres of land would usually take weeks to finish.

"I tell people I'm very greedy because I get a lot of good feelings out of helping," Jones said.

Farmers in combines and tractors bins tackled cornfields on the Bolander's farm on the Genoa and Sycamore border at 8 a.m. Saturday. Most of the farmers tied pink ribbons to their farm equipment and semi trucks, and DeKalb County sheriff's deputies helped control traffic as volunteers moved around Route 23.

A pink 1952 Farmall M tractor was also on display in the field Saturday. Rick Wilkening of Hinckley painted the tractor about a year ago and has been using it to promote cancer awareness and raise funds for the Susan G. Komen organization. A Pink Tractor fund is set up at Resource Bank in Hinckley.

Carol said she knew many of the volunteers who helped, but said there were also people she'd never met before.

"To see that kind of support just touches you," she said.

Lori Dynek of Genoa sewed a pink ribbon-shaped banner with the words "Bolander Harvest 2011" stitched in for the Bolanders to keep. Volunteers signed the banner. Lori and her husband, Blake Dynek, live down the road from the Bolanders, though Lori said she'd never met them before.

Blake helped the Bolanders one year with the harvest. Glenn later filled the Dynek's freezer with ground beef as a way of thanking Blake for his help.

"When you've got someone who gives, give back," Blake said.

"How could you not [help]?" Lori said. "The farming community is like family."

People not only volunteered their time, but they brought in breakfast foods and supplied lunch for everyone, as well.

Bill Lenschow, a neighbor from Sycamore who has known the Bolanders for years, helped the Bolanders harvest their fields Saturday. He remembers when Carol's mother was undergoing cancer treatments and how difficult it was then for their family.

"That's why it kind of stirs me to see this," Lenschow said as he watched pieces of farm equipment zip around the fields. "It really is something. It's truly amazing the outpouring of concern."

While the Bolanders weren't expecting to have their fields harvested in a single day, it saved them from the usual anxiety that always comes at a hectic time of year.

"Everyone's just got hearts bigger than they are," Glenn said. "It's something special that you don't see everywhere."