May 10, 2004 – Outside Roy L. Schneider Hospital on Monday, jack hammers and a backhoe continued work on the new Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute. Inside, hospital officials formally announced a generous new donation toward the completion of the facility from the estate of Lilian Hoepfner Langford.
A longtime St. Thomas resident and world traveler, Langford died in January 2003 of cancer.
In a brief ceremony held just before noon, the executors of her estate, Erna and Erik Bonde-Henriksen, presented hospital officials with a check for $200,000 toward the completion of the Chemotherapy Infusion Suite. The sum represents nearly half the cost of the $422,000 suite, which will serve chemo patients by providing them with a pleasant space overlooking the harbor to relax in during infusion treatments.
"Thank you for setting the pace," Amos Carty Jr., hospital chief operating officer, said in summing up the sentiments of the assembled notables.
"I believe the community should try to get more involved in the hospital," June Adams, chair of the hospital's governing board, said. "I am challenging all Virgin Islanders to please, please make this dream a reality."
A considerable portion of the community already has gotten involved.
The center is named for Charlotte Kimelman, who for many years played a leading role in Partners for Health, which has raised $2 million for the facility. She and her husband, Henry Kimelman, have personally donated about $850,000 and have pledged another $150,000 to bring their total contribution to $1 million.
The first Cure for Life Telethon, aired live on TV2 on March 27 to benefit the institute, raised donations and pledges of more than $260,000.
Rotary Club of St. Thomas as its centennial project for Rotary International's 100th anniversary year has pledged $100,000 to fund the institute's "Healing Garden," an area in the complex where patients will be able to relax amid shade trees, fountains and flowers. As of March 20, the group had raised nearly half that amount.
The executors of Langford's estate consigned scores of her items — artwork, furniture, china, crystal and silver — to the 2004 St. Thomas Synagogue Antiques, Art and Collectibles Auction, with their share of the proceeds to be donated to the cancer institute in her memory. That accounted for a minor portion of the amount donated from her estate.
Ground was broken last Sept. 30 for the facility, which is expected to open next March and to cost about $11 million. The institute also will include a Radiation Therapy Suite, a Telemedicine Conference Center, an Appearance Center (furnishing wigs and prostheses to cancer patients), a library and the healing garden.
"This is the one thing that will change the face of health care in the region," Schneider Hospital chief executive officer Rodney E. Miller Sr. declared proudly at Monday's ceremony.
Lorraine Baa-Elisha, fund-raising director for the center, said she is pleased with the giving to date. "It will be an ongoing process," she said.
About half of this year's goal of $2.5 million has been collected, Baa-Elisha said, and she is courting a potential donor for the $1.2 million radiation suite. Also in the works is a program to provide free travel for St. Croix patients to the center.
Funds being raised now primarily will go toward equipment and maintenance; most of the center's cost is being covered by the territory's portion of the national tobacco settlement proceeds.
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