Governor Phil Bryant. Dr. Vance, Host, Dr. James Keeton and Diamond are seen in the background.

The nation’s largest health charity has announced plans to build a $10.9 million Hope Lodge in Fondren on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

In a press conference held today, the American Cancer Society told of plans to break ground later this summer on the facility on the north eastern side of campus near University Drive. The project, in the planning stages for nearly a decade, is a joint partnership with UMMC, St. Dominic’s, Baptist Heath Systems and Radiation Oncology of MS.

Jackson’s Hope Lodge will contain 32 suites, each with private bath and sleeping accommodations for two. A chapel, a common living, dining and kitchen area, laundry and exercise facility are all part of the design by Trivers and Associates of St. Louis, Missouri. The lodge is projected to serve 1,000 patients and provide 12,000 nights of stay annually.

A capital campaign to secure funding began twelve months ago. Approximately $5 million in funds have been pledged, including a no-cost land lease valued at $1.5 million from UMMC.

Jerry Host, President and CEO of Trustmark, Inc. and capital campaign co-chairman said his involvement with Hope Lodge began after an inspiring conversation with his niece who lives in Birmingham, a practicing oncologist at UAB Hospital. “She shared a story of one of her patients being treated for cancer and staying at the Hope Lodge near UAB. The nurturing and supportive environment she experienced while staying at the Hope Lodge became an invaluable part of dealing with her illness.” He added, “We believe, if you are a cancer patient fighting for your life, the last thing you should worry about is where you are going to stay and how you are going to pay for it.”

Rendering courtesy of Trivers and Associates

Rendering courtesy of Trivers and Associates

Dr. Ralph Vance, professor emeritus at UMMC and a long-time ACS volunteer, said Hope Lodges are an excellent choice for patients facing treatment. “I had a bad day…is it going to get better…it will get better…it happened to me too,” he imagined in patient exchanges of support. “These are the intangibles we (can’t measure) in a Hope Lodge.”

Lester Diamond, president of St. Dominic’s Hospital said the Hope Lodge will prove to be invaluable to their patients, their families and their care givers. “They can let their guard down and laugh, cry and talk to each other. We know our patients will feel a warm sense of hospitality from ACS employees and volunteers.”

Governor Phil Bryant recounted his late grandmother’s battle with lung cancer and his brother’s survival story, citing staggering statistics. “Every day, 41 more Mississippians are being told they have cancer,” he said. “We want to be here to make sure we continue to give every bit of support we can offer to these survivors in their time of challenge.” Of the Hope Lodge, Bryant added, “Let them have hope, and let it be here on this hill in Jackson, Mississippi.

Other Hope Lodges located throughout the region are in New Orleans, Birmingham, Memphis and Nashville. In 2012, 255 Mississippi families used facilities in the mid-south division for a total of 3,782 nights of stay provided. Hope Lodges across the country provided nearly 262,000 nights of stay at no cost, saving cancer patients and their families more than $26 million dollars.

To make a donation to the American Cancer Society’s Mississippi Hope Lodge or for more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.