Big boost for cancer center campaign

MARSHALL – The largest family donation to Avera’s new cancer institute has pushed the initial phase of fundraising closer to the finish line.

Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center announced Wednesday that the Marshall-based Carr Family Foundation has donated $100,000 to the new cancer center, leaving the campaign less than $100,000 shy of reaching the groundbreaking goal.

“Our family knows that a cancer center is a great need in this region,” Robert L. Carr said in a news release. “Our family wants to be a part of making this project a reality for families who must travel hours to receive care.”

Avera Marshall has been working toward a goal of raising $5.45 million in time for a fall groundbreaking ceremony since February. Avera’s funding plan includes a $7 million (plus interest) gift from the city previously set aside after the sale of the medical center from the city of Marshall to the Avera health system. The $7 million was earmarked for oncology program development when the change of ownership occurred three years ago.

The Carr Family Foundation joins a long list of major contributors to the project – both in Marshall and from area communities.

“It essentially wipes away half of what we needed to get to groundbreaking,” said Marty Seifert, executive director of the Avera Marshall Foundation. “We’re now over 99 percent to groundbreaking. We’re now getting to that critical point of finishing phase one.”

The $12.9 million cancer institute would offer resources like chemotherapy and radiation treatments for people in an eight-county area. Right now, undergoing radiation therapy means a drive to cities like Willmar or Sioux Falls, S.D. The center will also provide surgery, pharmacy, dietitian consultation, home medical equipment, an on-site CT and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

The cancer center will be an addition to the existing medical center in Marshall. Seifert said more than 600 people in Lincoln and Lyon counties will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014. More than half of those cases would require radiation treatment.

The center’s core service area would be Lyon and Lincoln counties 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.

Seifert said money raised above and beyond the groundbreaking phase will go toward the center’s equipment fund. Seifert said the hope is that that second phase gets wrapped up in 2014 and that an October groundbreaking is still planned. There had been some speculation of a groundbreaking ceremony in September, but October looks to be the new target. The construction period would run for approximately 11 to 13 months.

“We’re anxious to get moving toward groundbreaking,” Seifert said. “We’ve raised millions in essentially nine months, so we feel really good about where we’re standing right now. We hope the community can rally around it to get us to groundbreaking in short order.”

According to the American Cancer Society, southwest Minnesota leads the state in cancer mortality rates, and from 1975-2007, the region has the highest cervical center incidence rare and highest female breast cancer mortality rate in the state.