When the offer to donate up to $1 million for a Cortland cancer center — but only if other donors matched it — came two months ago, the Cortland Memorial Foundation started making calls.
On Tuesday, the foundation announced it exceeded the goal. The $2.2 million it raised for the Guthrie Cortland Cancer Treatment Center will help create a fund for the center to support a financial assistance program and new equipment, once the center opens in August.
The foundation collected donations through volunteer led phone calls and one-on-one check-ins, said Deborah Nadolski, executive director of the Cortland Memorial foundation.
“The fund will support upgrades for equipment, new technology, a patient financial assistance program that will be open to all cancer patients and staff advanced training,” Nadolski said.
The foundation is still seeking donations and hopes for $2.5 million, which will add to the $10.6 million project that includes a new linear accelerator, meaning fewer and faster treatments for cancer patients, said Dr. Patrick Hayes, campaign co-chairman.
“There is less radiation leakage or scatter, so we expect to see few side effects from treatment,” Hayes said.
About 300 people are diagnosed with cancer each year in the greater Cortland area, Hayes said, and some of these people have sought treatment outside of the community.
Frank Kelly of Cortland is one of these people. Diagnosed in 2018 with aggressive prostate cancer, he consulted with a practice at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse to discuss post-surgery treatment options.
The oncologist was able to travel to Cortland to perform his treatment, which was important to Kelly.
“It speaks to the whole idea of proximity,” Kelly said. “Had it not been for that, I would have wound up having to go to Syracuse (for treatment), drive 45 minutes in both directions, park in a parking garage during the pandemic and do it during the winter.”
Instead, he plans to walk to his follow-up appointment at Guthrie on Thursday, two blocks from his house.
The center means more specialists in Cortland, too, Kelly said.
“Instead of having one generalist, you’re going to have access to at least a number of different people who specialize in different kinds of cancer,” said Kelly.
Hayes hopes many of these people will return to Cortland and new patients will choose the center.
“I am hoping and expecting with the program we are going to have in place, many of those people will find it’s much more convenient with reduced travel and excellent staff,” Hayes said. “I think we’ll be able to provide care for upwards of 500 to 600 people per year.”