"The patients [that local cancer treatment centers] serve come from far away," said Katie Eccles, chairwoman of the cancer society's Hope Lodge board. "We know for some, [with] the logistical and financial burden of trying to come here for treatment, they actually make the decision they will not undergo treatment."
She said of the 16,000 patients who seek cancer care in Utah, 4,500 will have left their home to do it, whether they are from rural Utah, Idaho, Wyoming or elsewhere.
Health facilities throughout the state conducted a needs assessment and found the lodge could be at 85 percent capacity, serving about 800 people a year. There are 31 others in the United States. The closest lodge is in Phoenix. The others are mainly located in Eastern states.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints kicked off Utah's capital campaign last year, donating two acres at 100 South and 400 East, valued at $4.2 million. And the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation gave $2 million, Katie Eccles said.
Other major donors include Intermountain Healthcare and Sorenson Legacy Foundation, which gave $750,000 each, and University Health Care, which contributed $400,000.
Patients of any of the valley's cancer treatment centers will be able to stay at the lodge at 375 East 100 South for free, along with their caregivers, with a physician referral. Each suite will have two beds. The average stay at other lodges is 21 days.
The Utah chapter of the American Cancer Society plans to sell its building on 3300 South to set up shop at the Hope Lodge, so that it can provide services to the patients.
The cancer society will also be seeking donations for the estimated $450,000 annual operations and maintenance costs. Other lodges have found that former guests give donations, to the tune of covering 30 percent of the costs.
Eccles said the lodge will be more than a place to stay.
"It's a place where people can meet and interact with other people traveling a similar path," she said, noting that it will include places for reflection, as well as resources such as a library and a patient navigator, a person trained to help patients access care.
The Ronald McDonald House is also raising funds, seeking $2.5 million to expand and more than double the capacity of its current Salt Lake City facility at South Temple and 900 East.