After Steve Roman was diagnosed with cancer, former Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen — a friend of his — would often drive the lawyer to Longview, Washington, for treatment.
The care would only take 30 seconds, but the round trip would last 2 1/2 hours.
“I sometimes wouldn’t even sit down,” Van Dusen said. “When the patients have to drive out in heavy traffic, it adds to the stress that’s already there.”
Van Dusen led the Columbia Memorial Hospital Foundation’s campaign to raise money for the Knight Cancer Collaborative with Oregon Health & Science University that opened in October. Launched in May 2015, the campaign raised $3 million.
Roughly 3,000 patients are expected each year at the region’s first cancer therapy center. The 18,000-square-foot treatment facility and specialty clinic cost $16 million, $13 million of which came from bonds.
More than 700 people donated, including local business owners, officials and people who work at the hospital. Contributions of less than $500 accounted for well over half of all donations, while some gave between $50,000 and $350,000.
Campaign leaders lauded donations from Dr. William and Deborah Armington, the Leinassar family, hospital board chairwoman Constance Waisanen, state Sen. Betsy Johnson, the M.J. Murdoch Charitable Trust, Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Inc., the Lum family, the Henningsgaard family, the Autio family and the Phillips Family Trust.
“The contributions by hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations were invaluable and inspiring,” Columbia Memorial CEO Erik Thorsen said at the cancer center’s opening.
Thorsen, Dr. Jeffrey Leinassar, foundation board chairman Michael Autio and foundation executive director Penny Cowden helped Van Dusen with the fundraising effort. About 75 percent of the donations came individually rather than from fundraising events. The crew made numerous phone calls to prospective donors, which Van Dusen estimated took about four hours of time each week.
“There wasn’t one negative comment from anybody we spoke to,” Van Dusen said. “That’s very unusual in this town because there are a lot of strong personalities.”
Van Dusen said the ability to reduce commute times for cancer treatment and the grassroots nature of the campaign immediately appealed to him. When calling donors, the former mayor usually would make the same pitch.
“We cannot let this opportunity get away,” he would tell them. “It’s not that I would like your help. It’s that I need your help.”
One large donation of more than $50,000 came from the family that owns the Minnesota Twins. Van Dusen, the owner of Van Dusen Beverages — a Pepsi bottling company — knows Bob Pohlad, a part-owner of the team and longtime head of his own Pepsi bottling company. After hearing about plans for the hospital, Pohlad called Van Dusen to ask how to pitch in. Years after Van Dusen aided one friend in his cancer recovery, another friend helped him raise money to fight the same disease.
“I have always thought from the beginning that this is a very important project, and I gladly accepted it,” Van Dusen said.
CANCER CENTER DONATIONS
More than 700 donors contributed to the CMH-OHSU Knight Cancer Collaborative. Here are the 15 top donors, all of which were more than $50,000:
• Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Inc.
• Warrenton Fiber Co./Nygaard Logging
• M.J. Murdoch Charitable Trust
• Martha Whitener Estate
• Margaret Rubidoux
• Van Dusen family
• Dr. William and Deborah Armington
• Constance Waisanen
• Eloise and Carl Pohlad Family Fund
• Oregon Health & Science University
• Henningsgaard family
• Leinassar family
• Mary Armington
• Autio family