Jack’s Place cancer caring house in Edwards celebrates 10th anniversary | VailDaily.com

Jack’s Place cancer caring house in Edwards celebrates 10th anniversary

Debby and Harry Jasper socialize on the back patio at Jack's Place on Monday in Edwards. The cancer caring house allows Shaw Regional Cancer Center patients and their families a lodge at which to stay during treatment with a "pay-what-you-can" philosophy.
Chris Dillmann | cdillmann@vaildaily.com |

What’s Jack’s Place?

What: A place for Shaw Regional Cancer Center patients to stay while awaiting, or recovering from, treatment.

Where: The west side of the Shaw Regional Cancer Center parking lot, 332 Beard Creek Road, Edwards.

Bedrooms: 12.

Cost: Patients are asked to pay what they can. Sometimes, that’s nothing.

EDWARDS — Like a lot of good stories, some the finer points of the genesis of Jack’s Place, the cancer caring house across the parking lot from the Shaw Regional Cancer Center, may have been lost to history, but what isn’t in doubt is the number of lives changed at the facility.

Dr. Jack Eck, for whom the caring house is named, tells the story of a rancher coming from the Steamboat Springs area who spent the night in his truck before a treatment day. Suzy Donohue, one of the founders of the Shaw Outreach Team, which has done fundraising for Jack’s Place and the Shaw Center, said there was a rancher who couldn’t find a hotel room but isn’t certain whether he had to sleep in his pickup.

Regardless of the details, the concern was real. Shaw Center lead oncologist Dr. Patricia Hardenbergh noticed that patients were coming to the center from around the region, and those people needed a place to stay.

That was the idea for Jack’s Place, and what an idea it was.

Plenty of help

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Donohue and other members of the outreach team got busy raising money and lining up help. Plenty of that help came without charge. Architects and contractors cut their prices to rock bottom. Ann Roecker, of Roecker Consulting Group, was hired to guide the original fundraising campaign and returned about one-third of her fee. Any number of workers donated countless hours to the project.

Eck said during the grand opening celebrations in 2007, worker after worker came to him to show him places, inside and out, that had been redone so it was perfect.

“So many of them had a mother or a brother who’d had cancer,” Eck said. “This was really important to them.”

Donohue said she’d occasionally be stunned when driving past the building site. One day, most of the building’s framework was in place.

“I had to turn around to go see it,” she said.

Since Jack’s Place opened in 2007, it has served any number of patients, either for a night of respite after a long day of radiation or chemotherapy or a place to stay before or after surgery.

“You go from surgery, in a wheelchair, over to Jack’s Place,” Shelly Wilcox said.

Wilcox, an Aspen resident, said the caring house is exactly what a patient needs after a day of treatment.

“You can’t have the (chemotherapy) and then even stand the thought of riding in a car,” Wilcox said. “And you can’t miss surgery.”

Beyond a place to rest, strong friendships are often forged at the caring house.

Wilcox said the group she spent time with during treatment and after-care sessions has remained close. Even today, the group will book the house for follow-up sessions. People will bring food to prepare in the common kitchen, and several of the group will bring their musical instruments.

That can be life-changing.

“You’re a person here,” Donohue said.

Not only for patients

A stay at Jack’s Place isn’t simply for patients — a lot of family members stay with their patients, as well.

When Wilcox was being treated, her son, Blake, would come up from college in Boulder and would stay at Jack’s Place. Already on an academic track for medical research, Blake Wilcox decided he’d shift his career to more patient-centered medicine. Soon, he’ll head to India for an internship in which he’ll perform eye surgery.

Thanks in part to recommendations from doctors at the Shaw Center, Blake Wilcox also earned an internship at the National Institutes of Health.

Shaw Cancer Center Vice President Stacy Toyama said Jack’s Place is different from other caring houses she’s been associated with.

“What’s different here is the services we’re able to provide and proximity,” Toyama said.

“We offer all our survivorship programs at the caring house,” Toyama said. “It’s like a hotel — you can get a massage, do yoga, do Pilates.”

In fact, Wilcox calls Jack’s Place Jack’s Chateau.

Eck was a friend and doctor of Hal Shaw, the cancer center’s original benefactor. He also reluctantly allowed the Shaw Outreach Team to use his name for the caring house — “They colluded together and named it after me,” he said.

But with its first decade in the history books, Eck said the caring house has turned out “way beyond what was envisioned.”

A recent anniversary celebration drew more than 200 people, Eck said, from people who had been treated there to those who had worked on the project more than a decade ago.

Local construction firm RA Nelson was the general contractor on the project. Company president Travis Bossow was at the most recent party, and said the spirit that went into the construction continues to thrive.

“It’s continued to permeate the place,” Bossow said. “It’s really special.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

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