Capital campaign for cancer center kicks off

MARSHALL – Monday was World Cancer Day, and supporters of a planned cancer institute at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center said it was a fitting time to move forward on a project that would affect hundreds of people in the region.

“It’s almost impossible to find any families in our area who have not been touched by cancer,” said Willard Engel, chairman of the capital campaign for the institute. “Think of how many lives (the cancer institute) will touch.”

Representatives of Avera Marshall and the Avera Marshall Foundation announced the formal start of the capital campaign in front of a crowd including local residents, Foundation members and hospital staff members.

Avera Marshall President and CEO Mary Maertens said the Avera Marshall Foundation has set a fundraising goal of $5.45 million for the cancer institute, out of an estimated $12.9 million total cost. Cost estimates were determined “by careful consideration of our governing board,” Maertens said.

Avera Foundation Executive Director Marty Seifert said more than $8.4 million has already been raised, including funds set aside for cancer care as part of the city’s sale of the hospital to Avera.

The Avera Cancer Institute will be an addition to the existing medical center in Marshall. The cancer institute will offer a range of adult treatment services, including radiation and chemotherapy. The project will bring much-needed cancer treatments to the region, Seifert said. He said an estimated 606 people in Lincoln and Lyon County will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014. More than half of those cases would require radiation treatment.

The cancer institute’s core service area would be Lyon and Lincoln County, Seifert said, but having cancer care options closer to home will benefit people from Lac Qui Parle County to Cottonwood County, and from Redwood County to the South Dakota border.

Seifert said the capital campaign team will be heading the local fundraising efforts this spring. However, they will also be seeking support from businesses and individuals in the region.

“We really want this to be a regional project with a regional reach,” Seifert said.

Contributions to the capital campaign can be paid over a five-year period, Seifert said. Gifts of cash, commodities, stock and property will all be accepted, he said. There will also be opportunities for donors with large contributions to have named recognition for parts of the cancer institute. Pledges have already been made for several of those named areas, he said.

Avera Marshall staff are joining the capital campaign, too. Medical center staff members Dr. Donna Hartfiel and Jo Coover said the goal for the staff campaign is for every staff member to make a contribution, whether large or small.

Capital campaign members said the public’s response to the planned cancer center has been enthusiastic, and definitely not limited to the city of Marshall. Seifert said more than $800,000 in donations have been raised in the past two months, with some large donations and suggestions for fundraising events coming from outside Marshall.

“I’m just thrilled with that,” Engel said of the response.

He and Seifert said they wanted to thank the donors who have made contributions so far.