Fundraising effort shifting to community get-togethers

Posted Aug. 18, 2009, at 10:26 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: the final phase of Champion the Cure, a two-year, $9.5 million fundraiser for CancerCare of Maine’s new facility.

The spacious new treatment center under construction on Whiting Hill in Brewer — with a total price tag of approximately $42 million — is on schedule to open before the end of the year. It will replace the outdated warren of cramped offices, windowless waiting rooms and exposed clinical areas that now houses the cancer program on the ground floor of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

With a major push for corporate donors and other high-end supporters drawing to a close, campaign director Brad Coffey said in a recent interview that there remains about $1.8 million to raise from residents, small businesses and community groups.

“This public phase of the campaign is the most exciting, in terms of broad-brush community involvement,” Coffey said. With Maine’s cancer rate one of the highest in the nation, he said, there are few Mainers whose lives have not been touched by cancer.

Mainers in the nine-county region served by EMMC and its affiliates at Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems should be on the lookout for local house parties and other get-togethers, such as the ice cream social co-hosted in Winterport last Sunday by former state Rep. Joe Brooks and his wife, Mary, and Rep. Michael Thibodeau and his wife, Stacy.

Mary Brooks, a 10-year survivor of breast cancer, said Tuesday that 40 to 50 Winterport residents attended the festive event, which featured homemade vanilla ice cream churned out with the help of an antique make-and-break engine.

The party brought in about $3,000 in donations, Brooks said, but the real goal was to educate guests about the need for the cancer center and the opportunities to support it.

“We have a high cancer rate in Waldo County,” Brooks said. That’s one reason she and the other organizers have committed to raising $25,000 from Winterport residents — enough to get the town’s name on a private treatment bay in the new facility.

With commitments already in place from the Winterport Fire Department, the Winterport Women’s Club and local schools, she thinks the goal can be met by December.

Brooks said her own cancer experience brought home the importance of attracting top-shelf clinicians and researchers to the area. By the time her disease was diagnosed, she said, it was far advanced. Despite a poor prognosis, she was able to undergo aggressive treatment in Bangor — including taking part in a national clinical trial of a new cancer drug — and to consult with other doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

“The people in Bangor opened every door for me,” she said.

Lawyers Nat and Stacy Putnam of Bangor will be hosts for an invitational neighborhood get-together Thursday evening at their home in the city’s Fairmount area. Nat Putnam said Tuesday that his stepfather and his sister both have battled cancer.

“The purpose of this gathering is to promote awareness and, hopefully, to raise some money for the cancer center,” he said. About 50 people in the neighborhood have indicated they will attend, he said.

For Brian Bouchard of Hampden, the decision to support CancerCare of Maine was also a personal one. His father, Harold Bouchard, traveled to Houston, Texas, a few years ago to undergo a new treatment for lymphoma.

“He’s on the winning side of the battle now,” Brian Bouchard said. “He’s soliciting donations [to CancerCare of Maine]; his big motivation is to help people in this area who can’t afford to travel long distances for treatment.”

The experience inspired the younger Bouchard to become a major donor himself. He declined to specify the amount of his gift, but the upshot will be the naming of the living room in the new facility after his father — the Harold O. Bouchard Family Livingroom.

While the first year of the Champion the Cure campaign brought in generous “leadership gifts” from corporations, physician groups and EMHS employees, Coffey said, individual stories and family donations represent the heart of the CancerCare mission — to bring cutting-edge cancer treatment and clinical research to the peo-ple of northern and eastern Maine. The new facility offers many opportunities for even modest gift-making, he said, including benches, flower gardens and other features.

On the Web: http://emmc.org/splash_championthecure.aspx

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