A silent audience watched as a line of people flipped around the papers they held, one at a time.
A blue ribbon to commemorate cancer survivors, then a 6. A comma, a 4, a dollar sign, in no particular order.
When the last number was turned, the answer was revealed: More than $10 million has been raised so far for the Building Hope capital campaign to support St. Anthony Regional Hospital’s new Regional Cancer Center, which will offer state-of-the-art cancer treatment to many patients in west-central Iowa.
$10,265,487, to be exact.
“What you have been able to accomplish is nothing short of amazing,” St. Anthony President and CEO Ed Smith said. “We’ve all been touched by someone with cancer, and I think that’s what made this project very special.”
Organizers and supporters of the $17.5 million center, which is well under construction and is scheduled to see its first patients Dec. 7, gathered in what will be the chemotherapy room Tuesday evening to thank volunteers and donors to the Building Hope campaign. “Iowa Nice Guy” Scott Siepker served as keynote speaker for the event.
The room includes a communal space for patients receiving chemotherapy who want to visit with other patients, as well as semi-private and private treatment areas for those who need them. Those being treated there will face floor-to-ceiling windows to benefit from what St. Anthony radiation oncologist Randal Hess described as “the healing power of natural light.”
On that day, with construction continuing around and below them, campaign organizers thanked those who have donated so far — they hail from 15 states, 84 U.S. cities, 24 Iowa counties and 63 Iowa cities, said Jim Greteman, St. Anthony Foundation board chairman.
“Obviously Carroll is a big player, but boy, we can sure thank other cities and states from around the country for helping us out,” he said.
The campaign co-chairs include Jean and Tom Farner, Mary and Barry Bruner and Peggy and Matt Greteman. The project’s honorary chairs included Sister Helen Elsbernd, Sally and John Norgaard, Shirley and Wayne Seaman, and Loa Dawn and Gene Vincent.
“To create optimism and life for people who use this facility — I don’t think there’s anything more you could say about this,” Matt Greteman said. “This was an easy campaign — and we’re not done. We’re making Carroll a better place because of this facility.”
Fundraising will continue for the project; the more that is raised, the less the hospital will be required to borrow to complete it, organizers said.
“Iowa Nice Guy” Siepker, a Mount Carmel native, was born at St. Anthony in 1982 by flashlight — not only did a severe ice storm wipe out power in the area, but the hospital’s generators went out as well. Siepker joked that it was a fitting birth for someone who later would choose the spotlight of an actor’s life.
He spoke of his father, Terry “Zippy” Siepker, who had leukemia twice and died in 2013. Families and loved ones of those with cancer know that it’s not just the treatment that takes a toll — it’s the time it takes to get there and back, too, especially if you live in a rural area and don’t have treatment available nearby.
“You’re not only going to save lives with this project here; you’re giving time back, and that’s all we have,” Siepker said. “You’re doing long-term good here. We know that health care in rural Iowa is tough to come by. St. Anthony has been a leader in that for a long time. You guys have done something very special.”