Grand opening celebrates new regional cancer center
By Carol Kothmann, Uvalde Leader News, Managing Editor The construction of the Kate Marmion Regional Cancer Medical Center is a product of blessings and God's work. That was the message of speakers at yesterday's grand opening of the center, which was attended by approximately 400 people.
Alexis Petty, Jim Marmion, Janey Briscoe Marmion and William Berry (left to right) applaud remarks by Dr. John L. Shudde yesterday during the grand opening of the Kate Marmion Regional Cancer Medical Center.
The construction of the Kate Marmion Regional Cancer Medical Center is a product of blessings and God's work. That was the message of speakers at yesterday's grand opening of the center, which was attended by approximately 400 people.
Dr. John Shudde, Saving Lives Close to Home Capital Campaign co-chairman, thanked the donors who made the facility, which was built without any government funds, a reality. “We wouldn’t have this facility without your generous help. You’re greatly appreciated.”
Hector Gonzales, president of the Uvalde Memorial Hospital board of directors and master of ceremonies, echoed that sentiment. “It was all possible because of you,” he said to the donors.
Shudde said gifts came in all amounts from givers of all ages throughout the nine-county area the center will serve.
He said when one donates to a project, the project is blessed and the giver is blessed, but there is more.
In the case of the cancer center, which will provide radiation therapy to the 200,000 residents of a nine-county area that includes Uvalde, Shudde said patients will be reaping the rewards of those donors’ gifts for years to come. “They will be blessed because you made a difference.”
Shudde said Roger Berry, co-chairman of the capital campaign that raised $5.4 million, saw the need for the center.
“I can’t begin to tell you what this project means to me,” Berry, who is out of town, said in a statement read by his son, William Berry.
“We all know that cancer patients have to make a difficult daily commute to San Antonio for treatment,” he said, referring to radiation therapy treatments.
“I saw my own father and father-in-law as well as other friends in the community go through that process. I thought about it and prayed about it and my conclusion was that there had to be a better way. It all began on a drive out East Main one morning. The Good Lord laid it on me that it could be done. So the process began … and here we are celebrating it today.”
Hospital administrator Jim Buckner said the project faced obstacles, among them beginning during tough economic times. He said challenges were overcome one by one; he credited that to the hand of God helping and guiding those working on the project.
Shudde said the process leading to the project’s grand opening was a team effort by donors, Buckner, a hospital board with vision and courage, and area residents.
“And we needed the Lord’s guidance,” he said.
Among the leadership gifts, Shudde said, Joseph Puccini gave the land the center is built on and the Archie Jones Estate gave an unrestricted gift of $1.2 million to the hospital, which the board used for the project. But more was needed.
“We needed a jump start. Of course we thought of Dolph Briscoe,” Shudde said.
Briscoe gave a $1.2 million challenge gift, and First State Bank of Uvalde gave a $100,000 challenge gift.
“His blessing on it gave a framework of stability to our cause,” Shudde said.
He said Briscoe wanted the center to be a memorial to his granddaughter, the late Kate Marmion, daughter of Janey and Jim Marmion because it would be helping the people she wanted to help.
In thanking those who brought the project to fruition, the name of donor and project coordinator Sheri Rutledge was mentioned by every speaker.
“Many said it would not happen without Dolph and Sheri,” Shudde said.
Alex Strenge, co-administrator of Clear Springs Center for Cancer Care, which will provide radiation therapy at the center, said he believes the effort required to construct the center, from the fundraising to recruiting a treatment provider, is unique. “I think it’s unprecedented.”
He announced that Dr. “Al” A. Sahib M. Al-Abdulla will be moving to Uvalde with his family and will begin radiation oncology practice at the center on Oct. 1.
“We waited until we found the right person,” Strenge said of the search for a doctor.
W.A. Kessler Jr. announced the formation of Uvalde Healthcare Foundation.
Kessler, a member of the Uvalde Memorial Hospital board, said work still remains to be done to help Southwest Texans battling cancer.
“The region is vast. Transportation will continue to be a problem,” Kessler said.
He said the capital campaign did not want a lack of transportation to ever be a deterrent to a patient receiving care, and with that in mind, the foundation was formed.
“The foundation will provide free transportation services for eligible patients,” he said, calling the crowd’s attention to two vans that have been purchased for that purpose.
He said the foundation board has a plan to hold an annual fundraising campaign, special events and for obtaining grants.
Kessler said by participating in those efforts, everyone can help the Kate Marmion Regional Cancer Medical Center become an even greater resource in Southwest Texas.
“We hope that we can count on your continued support.”