Editor's note: During the month of May, the Tribune Chronicle will look at some of the American Cancer Society programs funded by local Relay For Life efforts.
CLEVELAND - In the middle of the University Circle neighborhood of Cleveland, in the shadow of University Hospitals and just a stone's throw from the Cleveland Clinic, there sits an oasis for those undergoing cancer treatments. It's called Hope Lodge, and as those who work there and those who stay there both agree, it's a home away from home.
There are 31 Hope Lodges throughout the United States, funded by the American Cancer Society. Hope Lodge offers free lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers who live at least an hour away from their treatment facilities.
Ann Dahmen of Greene, left, and her caregiver, Darlene Fealko of Mecca, are shown at Hope Lodge in Cleveland. Dahmen was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in July 2011 and is undergoing radiation at the Cleveland Clinic in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. This is her third stay at Hope Lodge.
Cris Williams, manager of Cleveland's Hope Lodge, emphasizes that it is not a hospice facility, and the focus is on healing.
"Sometimes the last word people want to hear is 'cancer' or 'treatment,'" she said.
To that end, when someone with cancer checks into Hope Lodge, they are not a patient, but a guest.
About Hope Lodge
Joseph S. and Jeannette M. Silber Hope Lodge in Cleveland was opened in 1995 thanks to the support of Jeannette M. Silber, a longtime supporter of the American Cancer Society who donated $2 million to jump-start the campaign to build Hope Lodge. It features:
- 31 guest rooms with private bathrooms
- Living room with fireplace and baby grand piano
- Five fully equipped shared kitchens
- Dining room
- Outdoor gardens and patio, including grills
- Exercise room
- Free onsite parking
- Three laundry rooms with laundry and cleaning supplies
- Shuttle service to Cleveland hospitals
You can help
Hope Lodge accepts donations of food, kitchen and cleaning supplies for guests' use during their stay. Most-needed items include:
- Microwaveable, shelf-stable meals
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic clothes hangers
- Grocery store gift cards
- Whole chickens, hams, beef roasts, pork loin, bulk ground beef or turkey for potluck dinners
- CFL light bulbs, 60-watt equivalent
Items can be shipped or delivered to American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, 11432 Mayfield Road, Cleveland, OH 44106.
For more information, contact manager Cris Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 216-844-4673.
Upcoming Relay For Life events
Warren, May 11-12, Trumbull County Courthouse Square
Liberty, May 18-19, Liberty Churchill Park
Cortland, June 1-2, Lakeview High School
Austintown, June 1-2, Austintown Fitch High School
Lordstown / Newton Falls, June 8-9, Newton Falls School
"We don't necessarily feel sorry for cancer patients - we want to help them along," Williams explained. "We want this to be a home experience and not an institution."
Cris Williams noted that guests stay for an average of about 26 days and most make up to three visits. Guests must be referred by their doctor or other health professionals.
For those who may have been making multiple trips to and from Cleveland hospitals, Hope Lodge offers peace of mind - and considerable savings.
According to Cris Williams, Hope Lodge has provided $5.3 million in savings to Trumbull County residents in lodging alone.
Ann Dahmen of Greene is currently staying at Hope Lodge for the third time. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in July 2011 and is undergoing radiation at the Cleveland Clinic in preparation for a bone marrow transplant.
"It's a beautiful place to stay, very relaxing," she said.
Since guests are not permitted to stay alone at Hope Lodge, Dahmen's friend, Darlene Fealko of Mecca, has been staying with her.
Also staying at Hope Lodge are Arthur and Mae Williams of Burghill. Mae Williams was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January of this year and is being treated at University Hospital. She is currently undergoing radiation and expects to have surgery once the radiation treatments are completed.
"I knew nothing about cancer before it happened to me," Mae Williams said. "All of a sudden, I got sick, and I didn't know why."
She and her husband are learning much more about cancer and its different treatments, not only from their own experiences but from talking with the other guests at Hope Lodge.
"There's a camaraderie there," Arthur Williams said. "You're with other people who understand what you're going through."
"You become a little family unit here," Dahmen said. "'How did your appointment go today? How did you do?'"
"It's a natural support system that happens," Cris Williams said.
Hope Lodge is designed to encourage socialization, with comfortable common areas on every floor.
"None of the rooms have TVs in them," Arthur Williams said. "They want you to get out and socialize."
"Your room is for resting," Dahman said, noting that there are numerous activities for guests, including musical performances from the nearby universities. A shuttle provides transportation to nearby museums, and at the Lodge itself, there are cupboards full of jigsaw puzzles, a library, computer stations and portable DVD players to entertain guests.
Hope Lodge has 31 rooms available for guests, and each room sleeps up to four people. Several of the rooms are equipped with handicap accessible bathroom facilities. Each floor has free laundry facilities for guests, including laundry detergent.
While the rooms are free, guests clean their own rooms and must bring and prepare their own food. Each room comes with assigned refrigerator, freezer and cupboard space. No food is permitted in the guest rooms, so five kitchens are available for food preparation, and a large dining room offers space to sit and eat.
Even in the kitchens, the communal spirit of Hope Lodge is evident. If a guest has forgotten to bring something, or if someone has prepared more food than they need, there are shared cupboards, and a refrigerator and freezer from which guests can help themselves.
"Everybody shares anyhow," Arthur Williams said.
"Everybody seems to help everybody out," Mae Williams added.
And that feeling of camaraderie often lasts longer than the illness that brings the guests at Hope Lodge together.
"Lifelong connections are made here," Cris Williams said. "Cancer is the single common denominator. We're lucky enough to be involved with patients at some of the most intimate times of their life. It's one big family."