OKC VeloCity | ACS Hope Lodge will benefit patients, research efforts

ACS Hope Lodge will benefit patients, research efforts

By Molly M. Fleming / Development / September 16, 2020

Stephenson Cancer Center Director Dr. Robert Mannel has been advocating for an American Cancer Society Hope Lodge since he came to Oklahoma City in 1989.

The cancer center at OU Medicine treats patients from all 77 counties and 40% of the patients drive more than 50 miles to get treatment, he said. After treatment, many patients need rest or need to be monitored to see if they have a reaction. Staying in Oklahoma City can be outside many patients’ budgets.

But the Chad Richison Hope Lodge will provide free lodging and transportation to patients and their caregiver.

“The Lodge will be a major step forward to ensure all Oklahomans get access to the same level of cancer care,” said Mannel.

Paycom founder and CEO Chad Richison gave $5 million to the capital campaign for the project, which was the final amount needed to get construction started.

Construction will start in February on the 33,000-square-foot Hope Lodge, which will sit at 800 NE Seventh St. The building was designed by Miles Associates architecture firm and is being constructed the GE Johnson Construction Company team in Oklahoma City. The Lodge should be ready for guests by fall 2022. 

ACS has been working on the project for about four years, said William Ethier, director of construction management for the international nonprofit organization. While every Hope Lodge offers similar services, Ethier said each lodge is designed for its specific area, allowing the building to fit in with its surroundings. The Lodge will have 34 guest suites, a fitness area, indoor and outdoor reflection spaces, two community kitchens, and laundry room and other resources.

“We recommend to the design team to create a soft feel so it doesn’t feel too institutional,” said Ethier. “The last thing we want is for our guests to feel like their leaving one institution to go to another institution. We want them to feel like they're coming home.”

ACS brought Miles and GE Johnson into the process early so they could figure out any challenges together. The project is aiming for Well Certification, issued by the International Well Building Institute. The certification requires non-toxic construction materials as well as a facility system that creates a healthy environment.

GE Johnson General Manager Randy Nance said the company is ecstatic to be involved and appreciated being brought to the project early in the process.

“This kind of project fits with our core values, which is to give back to the community,” said Nance. “We want to make a difference in whatever way we can.”

Ethier said bringing the design and construction team in the initial stages helps keep costs in check, which is especially important as the money is being raised. Together, the team can discuss any challenges it sees and figure out what it will take to overcome those issues.

The building’s exterior will include brick and tilt-up concrete walls, with a home-like feel on the interior.

“Part of what’s popular in healthcare these days is hospitality,” said Curtis Wilson, principal architect at Miles. “We wanted to make this space into a homey and healing space. We also wanted to create a building that would last for them, which is why we chose such durable exterior materials.”

Senior Associate and Design Director Cory Baitz said the building’s exterior design has a cabin-like look, but fits its urban environment. The courtyard design will feel cozy, he said, even though it’s close to the city’s business district.

ACS has lodges in 32 cities across the U.S. Wilson said Ethier has helped the team with what works and what doesn’t in terms of design and implementation of those ideas.

“We’ve had a great deal of dialogue with (Ethier) about ideas for the lodge,” said Wilson. “These are not cookie-cutter structures. Each one is its own unique jewel box.”

Raising money for Oklahoma City’s “jewel box” was a need that resonated well with donors and corporate partners, said Michelle Fair, director of corporate relations and philanthropy for Oklahoma.

“This will impact all Oklahomans,” she said. “Getting help with lodging and travel is the most-requested need we get. I think the Lodge will help people see the local value of ACS.”

Chamber members that were large donors to the capital campaign are: Hobby Lobby, Express Employment Professionals, Hal Smith Restaurant Group, The University of Oklahoma, RKI Energy Resources, E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation and the Chickasaw Nation. 


Part of the value in the Hope Lodge is not only the free lodging, but the patients being together. Fair said the lodges provide a community of healing, which people can’t find if they have to stay the night in a hotel.

Building the Lodge in Oklahoma City reflects on the quality of care that’s beings sought at Stephenson as well as other cancer-related treatment facilities in the city. Cancer treatment is sought in Oklahoma City by residents from the United Kingdom, as well as well Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas.

In total, cancer patients can spend $3,000 to $5,000 on lodging for treatment, which isn’t covered by insurance. Coming up with that money is taxing on the patient, so having this free option helps with their mental health as well, said Mannel.

“Anything we can do to reduce the financial toxicity is a major major improvement in the care of our patients,” he said. “When a patient has good mental health, they do better and have an increased chance of survival.”

Besides its established treatments, the Stephenson Cancer Center is constantly trying to find new and better therapies, which require trials. The center is the sixth-largest early-phase drug trial centers in the U.S. and the largest of the later-phase trial drugs centers. Patients in trials have to be monitored, often for days, so having the Hope Lodge as a free option will be huge for research, said Mannel.

“The Hope Lodge will be transformative,” said Mannel. “It will truly help us take care of all Oklahomans.”

Fair said that while the construction of the building is funded, ACS is continuing to raise money to provide care at the Lodge when it opens. For more information, visit cancer.org/hopelodgeoklahomacity.

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