8 months later, Avera reaches milestone

MARSHALL – More than 1,000 people and businesses have given to the Building Hope campaign for the new cancer institute at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, and Avera on Monday announced it has reached its groundbreaking goal.

The aggressive fundraising campaign began in February with an initial goal of raising $11.35 million to break ground on the new facility this fall.

“We wanted to hit it by the end of September, so we just made it,” Avera Foundation Executive Director Marty Seifert said. “Obviously, it’s just the initial portion, but groundbreaking is very important.”

“We are hopeful that more generous businesses and families in the region will join the over 1,000 initial donors that got us to the groundbreaking point,” said Mary Maertens, Avera president/CEO. “When this project is complete, people in our region will have easy access to sophisticated cancer care services including radiation treatments. It will change lives and this community forever.”

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 $12.95 million cancer institute would offer resources such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments for people in an eight-county area. The closest sites that currently offer radiation therapy are Willmar and Sioux Falls, S.D. The center will also provide surgery, pharmacy, dietitian consultation, home medical equipment, an on-site CT (Computed Topography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

The cancer center will be an addition to the existing medical center in Marshall.

Seifert said money raised above and beyond the groundbreaking phase will go toward furnishing and equipment needs. That mini-campaign has a target of $1.6 million. Seifert said the hope is that the second phase gets wrapped up in 2014. Groundbreaking is planned for late October. The construction period would run for approximately 11 to 13 months.

Seifert said the initial campaign focused mainly within the Marshall zip code, but it will branch out to other area communities and continue within the farming community in the eight-county region. He said to date, more than 50 farmers have donated either cash or commodities toward the project.

“It’s very exciting to see the broad-based community support come together,” he said. “We’ve done this in eight months, and hopefully in the next eight months we can get that other $1.6 million raised. We’re hopeful there are still folks out there thinking about this project.”

Seifert said there was also a recent spike in memorial donations from people who have lost loved ones to cancer.