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East County Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010 7 years ago

Cancer Support Community opens Ranch facility

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — After doctors diagnosed Jim Schweiger with prostate cancer in mid-2007, the Summerfield resident and his wife, Rose, knew the months ahead would be more than challenging.

But through it all, Schweiger learned to laugh — quite literally — thanks to an organization now called the Cancer Support Community. The international organization provides counseling, exercise and nutrition classes and other services free of charge to individuals affected by cancer.

“All in all, it’s been a great experience,” said Jim Schweiger, who has benefited from relaxation classes, laugh seminars and other support classes offered by the organization. “For anyone who has cancer, it’s (a great resource). Some people don’t like to talk about it, but they should go there and all of a sudden that will change.”

The Cancer Support Community, formerly known as The Wellness Community, opened its new five-acre campus in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park Oct. 11 and held a special ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 19.

“It’s creating a much more healthful environment for our participants,” board member Dave Shaver said of the new facility. “We’re trying to help participants participate in their own recovery. Every aspect of this building and campus was designed with this in mind.”

The administrative building, for example, includes a library and Internet café area where participants can relax or connect with resources. And just down the hall, there are three small meeting rooms that can be used for support group meetings or counseling. Each room features a unique color palette intended to foster specific moods.

A no-touch hydration system allows participants to get a drink of water without having to worry about germs that could be harmful because of their already compromised immune systems.

“Environment is a big deal here,” CEO Carl Ritter said. “They really have not missed a beat.”

An outside walkway to the adjacent building, called the program pavilion, features the “Bridge of Hope” as well as a display of running water, plants and smooth river stones. The pavilion will serve as the primary home to the Cancer Support Community’s programs, including knitting and exercise classes, relaxation training and more.

The building features an expressive arts studio for children, a full commercial kitchen for cooking and nutrition classes and the “mind-body studio,” a large room that can accommodate up to 150 people for a luncheon or be used for yoga or other classes. Participants even can enjoy tai chi on a special lawn behind the building.

Ritter said the Cancer Support Community hopes to expand its services at the new location, as well. While the organization served about 2,000 participants annually at its former 4,500-square-foot Clark Road campus, which was located in a commercial shopping plaza, the Lakewood Ranch facility can accommodate up to about 10,000 participants annually.

With five acres of land, 2.2 acres of healing gardens and the building, the facility cost just more than $6 million to design and build and is three times the size of its former location. The organization still is working to raise the last $1 million for the project.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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