Show To Mark Cancer Centers Start

July 23, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center wants to make the groundbreaking ceremony for the $42 million Richard J. Lacks Sr. Cancer Center an evening to remember.

Rather than VIP speeches and the traditional ceremonial plunging of gold-plated shovels into the ground, the hospital is organizing a community celebration that will feature a three-dimensional, 70,000-watt laser light show visible in the sky over Grand Rapids from 20 miles away.

The event, planned for dusk the evening of July 25,is designed to make a spectacular splash that symbolizes the high-tech medical equipment and procedures Saint Mary’s uses in cancer treatment, as well as the cancer center’s four cornerstones of technology, knowledge, healing and community.

“The Cancer Center at Saint Mary’s will redefine cancer treatment, and that means it will redefine hope for millions of cancer patients and their families and friends for decades to come,” said Micki Benz, Saint Mary’s vice president of development.

“No shovels of dirt could symbolize this ground-shattering event,” Benz said.

The Lacks Cancer Center will consolidate into one location many of the medical services cancer patients require, as well as offer services designed to support a cancer patient’s emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being and better coordinate care between varying disciplines. The center is scheduled for occupancy by the fall of 2004.

Saint Mary’s is financing the project completely through philanthropy. The hospital has raised $40 million so far and will soon begin the final phase of a fund-raising drive with a public appeal for small contributions in hopes of securing the remaining $2 million.

The program, with lasers shooting from four “space cannons” from a 50-foot diameter sphere set up at Lafayette Avenue and Cherry Street, will include video presentations about the Lacks Cancer Center on a six-story, rear-projection screen. Saint Mary’s has invited more than 10,000 donors to attend the event and encourages anybody who wishes to see the display to attend.

The whole idea is to have an unforgettable event that keeps the Lacks Cancer Center in the minds of those who witness the ceremony.

“We want people to remember this after they leave,” said Jennifer Cammenga, Saint Mary’s manager of public relations. “We want to tell our story and our ultimate goal is that after the event, people know where the Saint Mary’s cancer center is. We wanted to really go out of the chute building excitement for this building.”       

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