A ‘journey for the future’

MARSHALL – It was a big day for the Marshall area community, speakers said. More than big – life-changing.

About 100 people, including many area community members, gathered outside Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center on Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new cancer treatment center.

“The Avera Cancer Institute Marshall will touch many lives, and I invite you to share our pride in making this a reality,” said Avera Marshall President and CEO Mary Maertens, speaking to the crowd. “Our journey for the future continues. This is not our facility, it’s yours.”

The cancer institute will represent the efforts and donations of many people across southwest Minnesota, Maertens said.

Construction for the cancer institute is planned to start this week, said Kevin Schroeder, environmental services director at Avera Marshall.

Jim Fuhrmann, director of the Avera Marshall governing board, said the first announcements that a cancer treatment center would be built came almost exactly one year ago. But the planning and preparations for that project go back a decade or more, supporters said.

“It’s gratifying to see individuals and businesses from surrounding communities join together with Marshall,” to support the center, Fuhrmann said. “We all know cancer is a reality, and there are very few whose families have been untouched by it.”

Many of the comments at Monday’s ceremony were words of thanks for all the donors and supporters of the cancer center project. Marty Seifert, director of the Avera Marshall Foundation, said the capital campaign for the project has raised more than $4 million in just 10 months, with contributions coming from businesses, organizations, families and residents from an eight-county area. Other funding for the $12.9 million project included $7.5 million set aside as part of the city of Marshall’s sale of the hospital to Avera.

“We do this for those who have passed before us who had cancer,” as well as for generations to come, Seifert said.

Seifert said there is still a way to go for the cancer institute’s capital campaign. An additional $1.3 million is needed to meet fundraising goals for furnishings and equipment inside the center.

For some of the speakers at Monday’s ceremony, breaking ground for the cancer center had a personal meaning. Sue Ann Moyars of Tracy has been through her own journey traveling for cancer treatment in, and she said the cancer institute would make a difference in the lives of many people.

“You never know when you or someone you love is going to need to use this facility,” Moyars said. Having local cancer care options could mean less time spent traveling, and more time closer to family, work, and daily life.

The new equipment that will be installed at the cancer institute will be able to serve 90 percent of area patients needing radiation treatment, said Sarah Peterson, chief radiation therapist at Avera Cancer Institute – Sioux Falls. The machine that provides the radiation, called a linear accelerator, is the same kind that is used in the Sioux Falls facility.

“It is state-of-the-art,” Peterson said.

Peterson said having a Marshall treatment location would make an impact on regional cancer care.

“We have a lot of patients from the Marshall area,” Peterson said, but travelling for an hour or more to Sioux Falls can make treatment harder for many people.

Schroeder said the contractors for construction of the cancer institute include several area companies. A partial list includes Sioux Falls Construction, as well as D&G Excavating, Bladholm Construction, Bisbee Plumbing and Heating, Thompson Electric, and VIP Landscaping. Construction, along with some related renovations inside Avera Marshall, is expected to take about 12 to 14 months, Schroeder said.

Schroeder building the cancer institute will involve some heavy lifting with help from a crane, as safety measures for the radiation treatment area include thick concrete walls. While construction is underway, the driveway leading off Bruce Street to the hospital’s main entrance will be temporarily closed. However, the Bruce Street parking lot, the emergency room driveway and the main hospital entrance will still be open, Schroeder said.