Jacksonville Hope Lodge to offer support, free lodging for cancer patients; Best Buy founder donates $9.6M

  • By
  • | 12:00 p.m. October 9, 2014
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
Chris Wong and Best Buy founder Richard Schulze
Chris Wong and Best Buy founder Richard Schulze
  • Business
  • Share

Chris Wong spent five months of his life at Hope Lodge.

Or, as the Jacksonville native calls it, he has “a little bit of experience” with free lodging for adult cancer patients and their caregivers.

In the next several years, patients in Jacksonville will have that opportunity.

After being diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma on Memorial Day in 2009, Wong went through nine months of chemotherapy before a stem cell transplant at UF Health Shands in Gainesville. Doctors told him the recovery meant he needed to be within 15 minutes of the hospital.

It was the same requirement when the cancer came back less than two years later.

“It’s a vital resource for someone undergoing cancer treatment,” Wong said of the Hope Lodge.

The American Cancer Society announced Wednesday the “vital resource” would soon call Jacksonville home.

A 32-room private facility that includes community areas, kitchens, family rooms, a library and more is scheduled to be built on the campus of Mayo Clinic Florida in the Intracoastal West area of town.

It will take a $19.2 million capital campaign to construct and operate, but the endeavor already has a big supporter who also understands the value of the facility.

The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation will contribute half the amount, or $9.6 million. Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, created the foundation in 2004 to benefit health, education and human services programs.

The Hope Lodge program has special sentiment to him. He lost his wife of almost 40 years to mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the membrane of the lungs. The couple lived in Minneapolis, but the facility was at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He recalled the “arduous” journey of traveling back and forth.

Instead of hotels or motels as lodging, Schulze said the Hope Lodge is a better place for the thousands who are diagnosed with cancer each year. The facility, he said, offers a support system that can’t be found in other lodgings.

He committed $7.5 million to two Hope Lodges — one in Rochester, the other in Minneapolis.

They are part of the 31 other Hope Lodges across the U.S, with two in Florida in Gainesville and Tampa. In addition to the Jacksonville gift, Schulze’s foundation also is providing $1.1 million in funding for renovations of the Tampa facility.

The capital campaign for the local facility will run through 2017, with construction slated to start and finish in 2018.

Schulze said he hopes his gift will makes others in the Jacksonville community “wrap their arms” around the possibility and contribute for cancer patients.

For patients like Wong, who needed the facility.

During his stays, he couldn’t really interact with the other people staying there. After his immune system was wiped out, his recovery couldn’t really allow it. Near the end of his stay, he was able interact a little more.

Yet, while he couldn’t, his mother did.

She was his primary caretaker and ended up making two friends with which still frequently talks.

“That’s what makes the lodge invaluable,” Wong said. “It’s someone you can relate to, someone who understands.”

[email protected]





Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.