$27 million raised for new Sarasota Memorial Hospital Cancer Institute

$27 million raised for new Sarasota Memorial Hospital Cancer Institute


DECEMBER 13, 2019

The “Leading with Care” campaign is a 5-year fundraising effort which aims to raise $50 million toward the evolution of the Cancer Institute, which will become the center for a premier cancer treatment program.

Around 6,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the area last year, according to figures provided by Sarasota Memorial Hospital. More than half of those people left to seek treatment elsewhere.

With the closest National Cancer Institute-designated hospital — Moffitt Cancer Center — more than an hour away in Tampa, this has been the norm. But that’s set to change in the coming years, largely thanks to donors to the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, who are determined to transform the way cancer is treated within the community.

So determined, in fact, that they raised $27 million for what will become the area’s regional Cancer Institute before the fundraising campaign even went public.

The “Leading with Care” campaign is a five-year fundraising effort that aims to raise $50 million toward the evolution of the Cancer Institute, which will become the center for a premier cancer treatment program. The first step will be a radiation oncology center to target and treat individual cancers, beginning in the summer of 2020, and an eight-story oncology tower and patient-care facility, which is scheduled for completion in 2021.

Last week, Mason Ayres, president of the foundation, announced that the fundraising campaign will open to the public for the remaining three years of its efforts.

Saraosta Memorial “has launched a comprehensive plan to transform cancer care for our communities, because no one should have to leave home for cancer care. SMH will deliver not only state-of-the-art cancer treatments, but, more importantly, state-of-the-art patient care,” said Ayres.

This would not be possible, he said, without a group of philanthropists leading the way.

“Since the launch of the Leading with Care Campaign less than two years ago, a dedicated group of cancer fighters, survivors and visionaries have worked quietly with us to make the Cancer Institute campaign a reality with their help,” Ayres said. “It takes some special people to fight the fight.”

Two of those are Beverly and Bob Bartner, co-chairs of the campaign, who donated $1 million. Beverly is a cancer survivor who had part of her thigh removed in 1979 shortly after being diagnosed.

She believes that the community’s growth makes a world-class cancer center necessary.

“We have the arts, we have the weather, we even have the hospital; all we needed was better cancer treatment, and now we’ll have that,” she said.

Bill Chapman, chairman for the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation’s Board of Trustees, as well as a cancer survivor who made a significant financial contribution to the campaign, stressed two key aspects: Alleviating the pressure on families considering whether to move or commute for treatment, and providing patient navigators to help those with the disease sort through their options.

“Back in 2003, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I went on Google and got all the information I could and ended up far more confused than I was before I logged on. There was way too much information, and I didn’t have a way to process all that or have context for it,” said Chapman.

A navigator helps cancer patients sort that onslaught of information, empowering them to make educated decisions.

Carolyn Ann Holder’s situation when she was diagnosed back in 2013 saw her, like many others, go to Moffitt Cancer Center for treatment. If she and her husband, Doug, not been retired at the time, she doesn’t know how they would have handled the constant driving back and forth from Tampa. With their million-dollar gift, they hope that future patients will be able to stay in Sarasota for treatment.

“When you love something and are so passionate about it, it’s easy to support. If we don’t support the community, we’re going to lose an amazing opportunity to have something we’ve never had here before,” said Carolyn.


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