Hope and relief for thousands of cancer patients who come to Dallas-Fort Worth for treatment are here. The American Cancer Society just welcomed their first patients to The Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge in Dallas.
Though her cancer journey has been long and taxing, 78-year-old Rose Riley radiates optimism.
"I am one of those that is going to have cancer forever, it is just a matter of keeping it intact. When it spread from my breast to other parts of my body, it was mostly in the bone," Riley said.
Riley lives 220 miles from her Dallas-based oncologist, whom she visits regularly. She said the cost of staying in hotel rooms adds up.
"I search for anything that would help me monetarily, whether it be a hotel or guest houses."
As the very first guest at the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge, on Sept. 14, Riley said the burden has been lifted.
"It is amazing to me, it is just simply amazing," she said.
Providing comfort and hope is what the Jones family had in mind when they gave the $7.5 million gift to make it happen.
"We have had other members of our family unfortunately with cancer and to know that that journey is so scary. When you first find out about it, it's overwhelming and to be able to provide that piece of comfort, just to take one thing off that list," Charlotte Jones, chief brand officer for the Dallas Cowboys said.
Hope Lodge is expected to provide more than 18,000 nights of free lodging a year. The lodge has 50 private guest suites, each with two beds and a private bathroom.
"Rose got to see it before anyone else and she got a little taste of what will be a beautiful and nurturing environment for all of those patients and caregivers that will stay with us," said Jeff Fehlis, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society.
"I know that nobody wakes up and says, 'I want to go stay at Hope Lodge,' but when they get that news that they need to, we are glad that we are there," Jones said.
A win-win for families in the cancer fight.
"You know what, we love our Cowboys fans coming through that door but this is where we are fans of everybody," Jones said.
Prior to making the donation to the Hope Lodge in Dallas, the Jones family also made a $1 million donation to Hope Lodge in Houston.
The land for the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge was donated by Baylor Scott and White, though people staying at the lodge can receive cancer treatment anywhere in the area.
The American Cancer Society broke ground on the lodge in May 2019.
"What's so special about it, not only does it include a caregiver but they're also with others on a similar journey," said Fehlis, during an interview with NBC 5 in 2019. "They'll be with others facing similar challenges. The first floor is all communal and so they can cook together, they can dine together and they can spend time together."
Hope Lodge is 100% supported by philanthropy and many donors, along with the Jones family, contributed to making the Dallas lodge a reality. Other major donors included the Don and Trudy Steen Charitable Foundation, Jeff and Carmen York Family, The Moody Foundation, the Horner Family, J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation and the Shapard Family.
In 2019, NBC 5 spoke with York who made a multi-million gift to the lodge after receiving life-saving cancer treatment at BS&W's Sammons Cancer Center.
"My hope is that every single person that sets foot in there walks away with more hope and more understanding that they're probably going to be ok," York said in 2019.
More than $32 million has been raised for this project to date, and the American Cancer Society and Baylor Scott & White Dallas Foundation continue to seek philanthropic support for ongoing operating expenses.
From the American Cancer Society: The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge program provides a free home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers. Patients staying at a Hope Lodge must be in active cancer treatment and permanently reside more than 40 miles away from their cancer treatment center. All lodging requests must begin with a referral from the patient's treatment facility located near the Hope Lodge community.