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10 Year Anniversary Of Jack’s Place

Liz Pyke

This summer marks the 10 year anniversary of Jack’s Place, a cancer caring house at Shaw Cancer Center.   
In the 1990’s long-time local physician Dr. Jack Eck saw an increase in cancer among his patients. Not having the proper facility to care for them, he had to send them to Denver for treatment. During this time, Jack was approached by Harold and Mary Louise Shaw about making a donation to the hospital. The Shaws asked what the community needed, and the quick response—a cancer center.  Dr. Eck was shocked when the generous Shaw family agreed to cover the $18 million bill to build the only comprehensive cancer center in a ski community in the nation.
Shaw Regional Cancer Center opened in Edwards, CO during the summer of 2001. At that time, Dr. Patricia Hardenbergh was recruited from Duke University to be the medical director. A small group of caring community members began meeting with Dr. Hardenbergh to help in her transition from a large medical center to a small community hospital. They offered their support and partnered with her in an effort to provide the best experience for cancer patients.
This small group soon became the Shaw Outreach Team (SOT). 
Dr. Hardenbergh told the SOT that one of her out-of-town patients couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel during his six weeks of treatment. He had planned to sleep in his car. 
“When Dr. Hardenbergh told us about this patient, we knew we had our mission,” says Suzy Donohue, SOT’s first president. Their mission was to provide convenient, comfortable and affordable accommodations for Shaw patients. 
“People told us it couldn’t be done,” says Elaine Kelton, an original SOT member. “That only made us more determined.” 
The SOT decided the best way to fulfill their mission was to construct a cancer caring house on land owned by the hospital, right across from Shaw. This decision came after much research, including visits to many types of caring houses and attending national conferences. It was agreed that convenient, comfortable and affordable accommodations would be crucial for the long-term success of Shaw. 
It was necessary to obtain county permission and permits, and have neighborhood approval. None of the team had done fundraising on the scale needed to construct a building, so they hired a consultant who helped them develop policies, fine tune their fundraising skills and run a capital campaign. 
In 2003, they kicked off the campaign with a goal of raising $3.4 million to build and equip a caring house and $1.3 million to establish an endowment. 
“Donors responded positively when we told them 100 percent of their gifts would go directly to building the caring house,” Suzy says. 
As word spread about the need for patient lodging, the community responded. “The support was amazing. People gave what they could,” Suzy says. 
In-kind gifts were extraordinary too. Local companies donated materials, time, expertise and enthusiasm, as well as financial gifts. For example, 25 electricians from Encore Electric donated a Saturday to wire the building. 
Other businesses critical to building the caring house included HLM Design-Heery International, R. A. Nelson & Associates, RMS Concrete and Slifer Designs. 
This support helped the project come in under budget and ahead of schedule. The building opened in March 2007.
When it came time to dedicate the 10,825 square foot building, it needed a name to symbolize compassion and care. “We named it Jack’s Place, a cancer caring house, to honor Dr. Jack Eck,” says Suzy.  Jack’s passion helped bring cancer care to the region. “Medical care and facilities in the Vail Valley would not be what they are today without Jack’s can-do spirit and dedication.”   
Jack’s Place offers home-like surroundings, including 12 luxurious bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen, library and a mountain-view patio.  While the actual cost of one night at Jack’s Place is $195, gifts from generous donations enable patients to stay for $25 or less.  Jack’s Place now has a pay-what-you-can philosophy.
Jack’s Place provides more than housing. It offers patients emotional and physical support through the Spirit of Survival wellness program, funded by benefactor gifts through Pink Vail. Spirit of Survival services include nutrition counseling, support groups, massage therapy and exercise classes.
“Our top priority is excellent patient care,” Dr. Hardenbergh says. “Jack’s Place has contributed significantly to our goal of treating the ‘whole person’ by addressing the important practical aspects of care, such as patient housing.”
“If it weren’t for philanthropy, Jack’s Place wouldn’t exist,” says Kim Sharkey, the facility’s former manager. Benefactor donations and continued SOT support covers daily operating expenses, maintenance and improvements.    
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