This story has been updated.
Some cancer patients and their families who travel to San Antonio for treatment will eventually have access to free temporary lodging at the medical center
Similar to the San Antonio Ronald McDonald House, which offers free lodging to cancer patients under 21 years old and their caregivers, the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge community provides the same for cancer patients over 21.
Nine thousand cancer patients travel to San Antonio every year to seek treatment, according to Methodist Healthcare Ministries, which announced Wednesday it has pledged $11 million to the American Cancer Society’s capital campaign for a San Antonio Hope Lodge.
“Many of these patients are faced with days, weeks, sometimes even months of appointments,” said Jeff Fehlis, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society’s South Region, which serves several states, including Texas.
“Some of these patients may even forgo that treatment because of the prohibited costs of the meals, hotels, and transportation. For those that choose to travel, the emotional and financial toll from the loss of income — the medical bills, hotel rooms, dining out — can be staggering.”
Nationwide, more than 30 Hope Lodge communities provide more than 500,000 free nights of lodging annually, saving patients and their families more than $55 million, Fehlis said.
To announce the gift, 11 Methodist Healthcare Ministries employees who have cancer, have survived cancer or have had a loved one diagnosed with cancer held signs that together read “$11,000,000.”
The pledge made history as the largest one-time gift to a single facility in the 50-year history of the Hope Lodge program.
The 40,000-square-foot Hope Lodge facility planned for San Antonio will offer 40 suites with two beds, according to Fehlis. The lodge plans to provide up to 14,600 free nights annually, representing a potential savings of $2.1 million to San Antonio cancer patients and their caregivers.
Inside the three-story building, patients and their families can spend time in communal living spaces, kitchens and dining areas. Hope Lodge guests will have access to fresh linens daily, a library with wi-fi, recreational space and free transportation to local cancer centers.
The American Cancer Society will continue to raise money for the capital campaign; there is not yet an estimated date when ground will be broken on Floyd Curl Drive near the South Texas Medical Center. About $18 million is still needed after Methodist’s gift.
The ideal Hope Lodge candidate will be referred to stay at the lodge by their cancer treatment doctors, must live 40 miles out of San Antonio and must be an active cancer treatment patient at any San Antonio treatment facility.
Methodist Healthcare Ministries CEO Jaime Wesolowski said the $11 million pledge is personal for him, as he has survived stage four throat cancer and made a promise to someone at an American Cancer Society event.
“One lady came up and grabbed my hand so tight. She said, ‘My cancer is terminal. Please promise me you’ll never stop doing this.’ So I never have stopped,” he said.
Fehlis said the American Cancer Society is just “starting our process to bring hope a home here in San Antonio.” Hope Lodge guests “don’t just have a place to stay… They find a community of support, an emotional connection with others that are facing similar journeys.”
Methodist Healthcare Ministries is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.