Lodge to act as home for cancer patients

Officials will break ground at the new building site today with a completion date slated for fall 2007.

Heather L. Mueller

The American Cancer Society will break ground today on its second Hope Lodge in Minnesota with help from the University.

The 40-room Hope Lodge at University Avenue and 25th Avenue Southeast will give those who live at least 45 miles from their Twin Cities cancer treatment centers a place to stay.

Janis Rannow, media consultant for the Mendota Heights American Cancer Society branch, said the event was more than just another groundbreaking ceremony.

“It’s a breakthrough for cancer patients from all over Minnesota so they will have a free place to stay while receiving life-saving treatments,” she said.

Project director Tim Torgerson said the facility, slated for completion in fall 2007, will be built with money from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, American Cancer Society and the University cancer center.

Construction will begin in the next couple of weeks, he said.

Torgerson expects about 100 people to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony, including longtime American Cancer Society donors, cancer survivors and interested volunteers.

Insurance, transportation and the cost of hotel stays force patients to compromise their treatment options, he said.

Public relations and English junior Jenna Langer said she stayed in the Ronald McDonald House, an organization that houses families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses, when she was 17 during treatment for a pediatric form of bone cancer.

Langer, forced to commute for 40 days between New Ulm and Rochester to receive treatments before her stay at the Ronald McDonald House, said it “offered convenience and camaraderie.”

Langer, a member of Colleges Against Cancer, said the group “hopes to take on a larger role in the Hope Lodge and developing relationships with its patients.”

Langer said more than 1,000 University community members raised $105,000 for cancer research in April during the Colleges Against Cancer-sponsored Relay for Life.

Cancer survivor Jeff McCallum stayed at the Rochester Hope Lodge for 45 days.

“The Hope Lodge is a transitional bridge for those moments when everything seems so bleak and dark,” he said. “There’s Hope Lodge and suddenly you’re surrounded by positive people and an opportunity to gather your life and your thoughts together to concentrate on your healing.”

McCallum, author of “Somebody’s Bright Balloon,” explained the power of the lodge.

“Your number comes up, it’s your turn,” he said. “It’s based on the fact that your physicians have determined you need a place to focus on the day-to-day living obligations in order to concentrate all of your energy on getting healthy.”

McCallum said he hopes students will volunteer at the Hope Lodge.

“It’s always better to hear about life than about dying,” he said.

Whether it’s working at the reception desk, mowing the lawn or providing evening entertainment, there will be a place for volunteers at the hope lodge Torgerson, said.