Salt Lake construction begins for first Hope Lodge west of Mississippi

Mormon church land donation was 'critical step' to create housing for cancer patients

Published: Wednesday, May 14 2014 5:10 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A 2.2-acre piece of land at the corner of 100 South and 400 East was occupied by an LDS meetinghouse for about 63 years.

On Wednesday, that junction took on a more holistic purpose.

"We couldn't imagine a better use for this site," Bishop Gérald Caussé of the LDS Church's Presiding Bishopric said Wednesday when ground was turned to begin construction of the American Cancer Society's newest Hope Lodge. He said the home away from home for cancer patients will "provide service, build strength and lift people," much like the church building that previously stood at the site.

"It will help people get treatment they typically couldn't get because it was out of reach," said Katie Eccles, chairwoman of the Hope Lodge campaign board.

She said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' 2011 donation of the land, valued at $4.2 million, was "a first, critical step" that gave legs to a capital campaign that is making the $18 million facility possible. It got the ball rolling after three years of "possibilities and some disappointments" in finding the "perfect location," Eccles said.

The Salt Lake City Hope Lodge will be the 32nd of its kind in the country, but the first west of the Mississippi River and the second largest in size, at an anticipated 63,000 square feet. It aims to house more than 800 patients and their caregivers as they navigate cancer treatment at various local facilities each year.

Construction on Salt Lake City's Hope Lodge began Wednesday and is expected to last about 12 months.

The lodge aims to provide a sterile sanctuary for patients, allowing them access to basic necessities (housing, food and laundry services) without the stress of planning and paying for it. It will also serve as a home to local American Cancer Society staff.

But, more importantly, it will put patients together with other patients, giving them a sense of camaraderie, which can inspire optimism and hope.

"Hope is a beautiful thing. Hope is a gift from God. It gives us a reason to live," Bishop Caussé said. "Hope is what gives us the courage to carry on in spite of seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Hope stands brightly and brilliantly in opposition to the dark and painful experiences we sometimes encounter in this world of ours."

Getting to know other patients going through similar treatment helped turn Joe Galvin from a victim to a survivor of cancer.

As with many patients, the southwestern Wyoming man said his cancer diagnosis was accompanied by a feeling of "dread." Not only is Galvin the pastor of his church — the Bridger Valley Assembly of God — he is a husband, father and grandfather, which made the tumor found under his right ear even more worrisome.

"I didn't realize how tired I'd be and how much my body would change," Galvin said, adding that he had to make the trip to Huntsman Cancer Institute, 135 miles from home, five days a week for six weeks for radiation treatment.

He depended on the camaraderie from other patients he met to get through it, but also on many family members, friends and neighbors who served as chauffeurs on the long drives to and from Salt Lake City.

The Hope Lodge, Galvin said, "would've been a blessing."

More than 28 percent of Utah's cancer patients, about 4,500, travel in and out of Utah each year for treatment, according to the American Cancer Society. Utah's capital city is home to a number of world-renowned cancer treatment facilities, landing it among the top 50 markets across the United States to deserve a Hope Lodge, according to Stephanie Christiansen, vice president of the Great West Division of the American Cancer Society.

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