Hope Has Home Here

December 16, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Just $2 million more to raise and the $6.8 million capital campaign will be done. Then the construction can begin.

The Great Lakes Division of the American Cancer Society is more than halfway toward reaching its goal of having the necessary funds to build the state's first Hope Lodge, set for Grand Rapids.

Twenty of these lodges, which provide free accommodations and transportation for adult cancer patients and their caregivers, are open across the country. But none are in Michigan.

"My husband and I were able to connect with people with the same problems and share our experiences," said Roberta Skach, a local resident and former Hope Lodge guest.

"I think having a facility right here in Grand Rapids will make a huge impact on Michigan natives who need to travel for cancer treatment," she added.

The society chose Grand Rapids as the location for its initial Hope Lodge because the city is home to the Van Andel Institute for Research and Education, which conducts cancer research, and because Spectrum Health and Saint Mary's Health Care both offer high levels of patient care in specialized settings.

Roughly 3,800 cancer patients receive treatment here each year; about a quarter of those travel here from outside Kent County, according to the cancer society.

"Unlike any other resource in the area, Hope Lodge provides an invaluable service to patients and their families, and it will be a necessary resource in support of our emerging world-class cancer treatment community — further enhancing the health care infrastructure and helping to attract the best cancer specialists," said Frank Merlotti Jr., Steelcase North America president.

Merlotti is co-chairing the campaign with Alex DeYonker, managing partner of Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP.


The Hope Lodge will go up on a 38,000-square-foot parcel at Cherry Street and Jefferson Avenue, property that Saint Mary's Health Care gave to the cancer society. The lodge will have 20 suites, and the society expects it will host 600 patients annually and provide 7,200 free nights of lodging for patients and caregivers each year.

"We expect to accommodate both a patient and their caregiver in the same room. There will be two beds and an adjoining bathroom," said Christine Benke, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.

"There will also be several kitchens in sort of a communal area," she added. "That's another one of the benefits. When people are sick they don't want to go out to eat. They want to feed themselves, and that can be done right there."

Design Plus of Grand Rapids has designed the building to complement the historic Heartside neighborhood structures that will surround it. Triangle Associates Inc. will manage the construction. Hope Lodge will be built to meet the LEED standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"Hope Lodge is a most tangible demonstration of the American Cancer Society's commitment to improving the quality of life of cancer patients and their families by directly combating the financial burden of the disease and offering unprecedented access to quality care," said Greg Bontrager, CEO of the society's Great Lakes Division.

With $4.8 million of the $6.8 million already pledged, the capital campaign seems to be heading into its stretch run. To make a donation, call (800) ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org

"We're looking for sooner rather than later, but we really don't have a hard deadline we're working against," said Benke. "We'd like to raise the money by spring of '06. We're working diligently to have an update at the end of this week to add to that $4.8 million figure."     

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