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Cornforth Family Donates $1 Million to the Cancer Center at SJCH

Philanthropy Like so many other families, the fight against the ravages of cancer hits close to home for Dr. Donald and Mrs. Edna Cornforth.

And like so many other Kern County residents, the Cornforths know how common it is for local cancer patients to seek treatment out of town.

But thanks to the generosity of the Cornforth family, that’s about to change. It was announced at a press conference on Tuesday they have made a $1 million donation to The Cancer Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital, marking the next phase: the fundraising capital campaign.

“We really believe in Adventist Health and SJCH,” Dr. Cornforth said. “Their integrity and commitment to Sacred Work has well-positioned them to add cancer care to this hospital and this community.”
Upon sharing the news of the donation, a banner located on the stage was revealed to show The Cancer Center’s lobby area, which will now be known as: Cornforth Family Pavilion.

With a father, mother, brother and two brothers-in-law all touched by cancer, the Cornforths want to make sure the best care is available for the community they’ve grown to love.

“When Edna and I moved here in 1991, the plan was to help re-establish the radiology department at SJCH,” Dr. Cornforth told the crowd. “Well, that two or three years resulted in 20-plus years … we love the Bakersfield family and our SJCH family.”

The 60,000-square-foot, four-story building – designed by BFGC-IBI Group Architecture Planning – will stand directly across the street from SJCH; completion is scheduled for fall 2012. Once hospital officials discovered that one in five cancer patients leave the area for treatment, they knew there was a significant need to fill.

“If you have to drive to LA or some other location for resources, that can be very difficult at a very challenging time,” said Robert J. Beehler, SJCH President/CEO. “For us, Sacred Work equals cancer care.”

Sacred Work is the name of the concept brought to the hospital’s culture, where each of SJCH’s 2,000 employees are committed to truly caring for the people around them: patients, visitors and each other. It’s the Golden Rule, and it’s been a golden success in bringing another healing element to the hospital.

Much like SJCH did when bringing burn care to this community with the Grossman Burn Center, plans were unveiled in May for The Cancer Center, a place where people can receive the very best medical treatment without leaving behind that all-important support group at home.

To help do this, SJCH has engaged the absolutely best consultants, MD Anderson for this $36.2 million project. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is based in Houston and is ranked No. 1 in cancer care in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals.”

The approach is to treat the whole person as well as their family, knowing cancer affects a wide circle of loved ones. Among the special amenities that will be available at The Cancer Center at SJCH will be: a healing garden, acupuncture and massage, and yoga.

It’s this environment and the continued mission of Sacred Work that influenced the Cornforth family’s significant donation, according to Dr. Cornforth, who encouraged the community to join the fundraising efforts as well.

“The amount doesn’t matter – some may be in a position to make a larger endowment, but any and all gifts will demonstrate your commitment,” he said.

SJCH Foundation President and Executive Director, Kevin Burton echoed Dr. Cornforth’s community invitation to become a part of this endeavor by officially announcing the kick-off of the capital campaign called, “When you give …” The target fundraising goal is $5 million.

“We want to sincerely thank the Cornforths for making what we hope will be a pace-setting gift,” Burton said. “In the next months, we’ll be sharing our message to encourage community involvement.”

The employee perspective of The Cancer Center was also shared at the gathering:
Wendy Wayne, The Cancer Center project coordinator, told of her successful battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. However, that battle was waged in Southern California.

“I was one of the statistics you’ve talked about – my treatment at Cedars-Sinai and City of Hope involved 50 trips, 17 different drivers and 200 hours spent in the car for 12,500 miles,” she said. “But this facility will give us world-class cancer treatment right here in our own backyard.”

Sandy Johnson, SJCH’s Executive Director of Mission and Culture, spoke about her experience with cancer via her 7-year-old son, Trevor.

Calling it “every person’s worst nightmare,” Johnson recalled the heart-wrenching process of learning Trevor had an inoperable brain tumor and only weeks to live. She also cited the loving care she, Trevor and her family experienced from all his caregivers before he passed away. That was 17 years ago.

“Surviving that was made more gentle and possible because of that kind of care,” Johnson said. “Now we will be the center of hope and healing and if a cure cannot be found, there can still be much healing.”