A look at the upcoming Vita Bella Gala and the work of Hope Lodge, which the gala supports
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Vita Bella Gala is an annual fundraiser that supports the operational costs of Marshfield’s American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. This year’s event will be the sixth annual and will take place May 15 at RiverEdge Golf Course in Marshfield from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Hope Lodge is a facility that allows adult cancer patients and their caregivers to stay in a “home away from home” free of charge while they go through medical treatment.
“The sole purpose of (Vita Bella Gala) is to raise funds to help the operating budget of Hope Lodge,” said Hope Lodge Manager Joleen Specht. She added that Vita Bella Gala brings in about 30 percent of the annual operating budget for Hope Lodge in Marshfield. Last year the event raised $119,000, and the goal for this year is $130,000.
At the gala people enter themselves into both silent and live auctions that occur throughout the evening. There is a social hour to kick off the event followed by dinner, entertainment, and a live auction. This year event organizers put on a golden ticket raffle in which they sold 100 tickets for $100 apiece, giving people the chance to win either a trip to Hawaii or Canoe Bay, an upscale resort near Chetek. The winner will be revealed at the gala.
To purchase tickets for Vita Bella Gala, contact Hope Lodge at 715-486-9100.
The mission of Hope Lodge
Marshfield’s Hope Lodge opened in March of 2003 and is the only such facility in the state, Specht said. It is one of only 31 facilities of its kind in the nation, and the Marshfield location was the 18th ever built. All Hope Lodge facilities are owned and operated by the American Cancer Society.
While Hope Lodge is funded in part by proceeds raised at Vita Bella Gala, it is also funded by contributions from corporations and individuals. In addition, Hope Lodge receives a portion of the funds raised by American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Hope Lodge’s annual operating budget is about $370,000, Specht said.
Marshfield’s Hope Lodge has 22 guest rooms, a large community kitchen area, a library, rooms for families to gather and watch television or visit together, and outdoor seating areas. Guests can stay as long as they are in active treatment.
Many of the guests who stay at Hope Lodge come from northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan, but people have come to Marshfield’s Hope Lodge from 27 different states. A guest must live at least 40 miles outside of Marshfield to be eligible to stay at Hope Lodge.
Specht said that there is a sense of community among the guests who stay at Hope Lodge.
“They really naturally support one another. I say that Hope Lodge is more than just lodging. It’s really a big support group,” said Specht.
Specht noted that there are a few support groups that meet at Hope Lodge. For further resources guests may need as they go through the cancer treatment process, Hope Lodge will refer them to American Cancer Society’s patient service center. The patient service center will help guests with financial or insurance questions, finding a support group in their own hometown, and much more.
Guests at Hope Lodge provide and cook their own food, but area restaurants bring in a meal once a month, and North Ridge Church in Marshfield also provides a weekly meal for guests. Hope Lodge has three full-time staff, and Specht said that the role of volunteers is crucial to running a successful operation.
“It’s probably 2 ½ more full-time staff we’d need if we didn’t have the volunteers that we do,” Specht said, adding that they help with office work, yard work, and custodial work. “We really rely heavily on our volunteers.”
Specht said the biggest challenge in running Hope Lodge is getting the word out about their services to the people that need it. It is a particularly difficult challenge because Hope Lodge does not provide its services to local residents, though Specht said the Marshfield community has supported and embraced Hope Lodge.
“That’s probably the biggest challenge is making sure that people know we’re here,” Specht said. She added that her favorite part of working for Hope Lodge is helping people who are going through a trying time.
Specht said she enjoys “serving the guests, being able to meet their needs when they’re going through such a difficult time. I want Hope Lodge to be the easiest part of their cancer journey, and that’s really my goal.”
For more information or to donate to American Cancer Society Hope Lodge of Marshfield, visit cancer.org/treatment/supportprogramsservices/hopelodge/marshfield/index or call 715-486-9100.
To view Hub City Times’ photo gallery of Hope Lodge, click here.