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Demolition begins to pave the way for sterile Hope Lodge healing resort

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Cancer patients shouldn’t have to worry about lodging arrangements or burdensome travel costs. We are committed to bringing them this remarkable house of healing to let them concentrate on what’s most important — getting well. – Pam Higginson

SALT LAKE CITY — Patients battling cancer either far from home or without family will have the option to be housed in the city and nearer to medical facilities sooner rather than later.

The American Cancer Society this week is beginning demolition to prepare for its local Hope Lodge site, hoping to help up to 800 patients each year with a sterile healing environment that intends to be their home away from home.

"Cancer patients shouldn't have to worry about lodging arrangements or burdensome travel costs," said Pam Higginson, vice president and Hope Lodge campaign director for the American Cancer Society's Great West Division. "We are committed to bringing them this remarkable house of healing to let them concentrate on what's most important — getting well."

Demolition is another step in making the Salt Lake City Hope Lodge a reality, Higginson said.

It has also helped to bring together other nonprofit organizations throughout Utah. The local Habitat for Humanity group has harvested materials from the old church building on the property to use in building homes for needy families or for the organization's retail store. The donation of materials is the largest Habitat for Humanity has received in Utah.

Five 30-foot pine trees that once towered over the church have been dug up and transported to the Navajo Tribe near Mexican Hat in San Juan County.

Labor and materials used for each effort also were donated, keeping several tons of building material out of Utah landfills. As the final demolition takes place, the remaining materials will be properly separated and sorted for additional reuse and recycling.

The new facility — which will stand at the northwest corner of 100 South and 400 East, where the old 13th Ward LDS Church meetinghouse is located — will offer 42 private suites, each equipped with two beds, study/office space and a private bathroom. The 43,000-square-foot building will also have several common areas for patients to mingle.

About 4,500 patients travel in and out of Utah each year for cancer treatment. In all, about 16,000 patients are treated in the Beehive State, putting sterile healing space at a premium. In 2013, nearly 11,000 Utahns were diagnosed with cancer, according to the organization, which aims to help find cures but also provides services to help those who struggle with diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Fundraising efforts for the Hope Lodge have raised $14.8 million of the $18 million needed to bring the resource to Utah. The American Cancer Society continues to call on the community and donors to raise the remaining funds in order to begin building the facility once the lot is cleared.

"We have rallied together with donors from the community to fight cancer in a very real way, and it's deeply rewarding to see those efforts taking shape and moving forward in this next phase of the campaign," said Katie Eccles, who serves as chairwoman on the Hope Lodge board.

Demolition work on the existing building and its 2.2-acre accompanying site, which was donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2011 after years of non-use, is also part of a generous donation from vendors in the community.

"We look forward to seeing this corner of downtown Salt Lake City once again become a center for hope and healing as the American Cancer Society continues the legacy left by the previous building," said Jake Rodgers, vice president of A-Core Concrete Cutting Inc., which is working to demolish the old church building.

The Hope Lodge will join 31 American Cancer Society-operated live-in facilities in the country, but it will be the only one of its size and kind in the Intermountain West. The nearest available housing for patients is a six-room facility attached to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. The next closest Hope Lodge is in Lubbock, Texas.

The facility will also house regional American Cancer Society offices and serve as a complete cancer resource center.

To learn more about the organization or to make a donation to Hope Lodge, visit www.hopelodgeutah.org.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards