One of the most well-known and generous families in North Texas is making a play to improve care and outcomes for cancer patients. Jerry and Gene Jones announced a $7.5 million dollar gift to create a Hope Lodge facility in Dallas that will offer cancer patients a free place to stay when they must travel for treatment to any of the area's premier medical centers.
"It's far more than a building, it's far more than just coming together with dollars. It's a real tangible message of hope, of real tangible results," the Dallas Cowboys owner said.
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Gene Jones said this gift is personal for her family. "My mother died with lung cancer so when you went to get those treatments you saw the horror and the scare and the worry and sometimes it was because they didn't know how to provide for their families."
The new facility will be named the American Cancer Society Gene and Jerry Jones Family Hope Lodge and it will be built on property donated by Baylor Scott & White Health.
"It means so much and it will have such a great impact in this community that will live on through the life of that facility," Jeff Fehlis, the executive vice president of the American Cancer Society said.
Every year, thousands of cancer patients travel away from home to receive cancer treatment in Dallas.
"There is such a burden on that cancer patient not only with the cost of the medical treatment but the burden of transportation and lodging and what this building will do will provide up to 18,000 free nights of lodging each year," Fehlis said.
The 40,000 square foot, 4 story facility, located at 210 Hall Street in Dallas, will offer free, temporary lodging to cancer patients and their caregivers that are traveling more than 40 miles away from home for cancer treatment.
"The idea that you are in such a down time when your family, loved ones are fighting cancer. You need every eye, every body that you can have that support you and to me, Hope Lodge and it's concept is a tangible way to say, ‘we are with you. A lot of people are with you,'" Jerry Jones said.
When the doors open in 2021, the facility will offer 50 private guest suites, providing more than 16,000 nights of free lodging annually to cancer patients and their caregiver visiting any of the area's premier medical centers. It will also offer common living areas, laundry facilities and an outdoor garden.
"They feed off of each other and what one is going through, another is going through a very similar thing. I think living together like this is just a wonderful way to face such a tragic future," Gene Jones said.
Fehlis echoed her sentiments. "The beauty of a Hope Lodge is you aren't alone on your journey. The community that we have at Hope Lodge with those caregivers, there are friendships that are built that last a lifetime."
The American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge community in Dallas will provide more than $2.6 million in savings for cancer patients annually in lodging.
"We have a saying, 'your zip code shouldn't determine whether you live or die,'" Fehlis said.
Jerry and Gene Jones say giving is in their DNA, a legacy they hope to pass down to generations. "Well, I'd be disappointing a lot of people up there looking down at me if I didn't help out," Jones said.
Jeff York, of Dallas, knows all too well what a battle with cancer truly looks like. He was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach and esophageal cancer in 2015. He regularly traveled to Houston for treatment before moving his treatment to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
"I was by myself the whole time. There was no place to meet up with people who were in similar situations, other than the hospital," recalled York.
After doctors at Baylor successfully treated York, he said it was at that point he decided he wanted to do something big in return. He made a multi-million dollar gift to the creation of the Hope Lodge.
Doctors add that the facility will give patients access to cutting edge clinical trials at Baylor University Medical Center.
"Only two to three percent of patients participate in clinical trials. We really need to get that patient number up because these trials are really helping patients in the long term and we've seen some amazing results, so we want to get more and more patients on those trials. One of the challenges is it's too far to travel. They have nowhere to stay. Hope Lodge provides an amazing facility in the North Texas area and will really help cancer research," said Dr. Ronan Kelly, Chief of Oncology at Baylor Scott & White.