FARGO, N.D. — On Thursday night, Sanford Health unveiled its long-term plan for changing cancer treatment during an event at the Fargodome.
The legacy of famed slugger Roger Maris is at the center of that, and Harrison Smith — one of the heaviest hitters in football — was among those on hand to show support.
The announcement: Sanford will transform the Roger Maris Cancer Center and the Sanford Broadway campus into a national destination for cancer care during the next seven to 10 years. Some of the work has begun and will be complete later this year. Other elements will require time, support and innovation.
“We’ve all probably been impacted by cancer somewhere — if it’s a loved one or a friend,” said Smith, a four-time Pro Bowl safety for the Minnesota Vikings. “Being able to be the tiniest part of helping find ways to combat cancer is all I care about. It’s good to be a part of.”
Key parts of plan
The plan has four areas of focus:
- Research and education. This includes establishing an oncology fellowship and working with partners North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota.
- New services and innovation. This includes introducing the new “Car T” cell immunotherapy and establishing a bone marrow transplant program — the first in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
- Facilities. In the next seven to 10 years, the Roger Maris Cancer Center will become the anchor of the new Sanford Broadway campus through $40 million of growth and improvements.
- Hospice and housing. Expansion will include a 10-bed inpatient hospice program to open this fall.
Maris’ history and vision
The announcement was more than 30 years in the making.
Maris went to high school in Fargo before starring with the New York Yankees and eventually setting the Major League Baseball record for home runs in a single season — 61 — in 1961. He died of cancer at age 51 in 1985, but not before establishing a celebrity golf tournament aimed at raising funds to research the disease. The Roger Maris Cancer Center opened in 1990 with seven doctors. It now has 29 — with a new era on the horizon.
Thursday night was a time to reflect on that. Maris came from a different era of professional sports — there wasn’t nearly as much money, and philanthropic endeavors weren’t as common. He was ahead of his time in that regard. Over time, he may be known more for his impact on cancer care than his accomplishments on the baseball diamond.
Smith was joined at the announcement event by World Series champion Tim Laudner and Olympic hockey champion Gigi Marvin. The three met with local families affected by cancer, signed autographs and posed for pictures.
They carried forward Maris’ vision toward the next generation.
“What the cancer center is doing — it’s exceptional,” Smith said. “Moving to more of a national-type of center to get help — that’s something that was set in motion a long time ago.”
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