A well-known South Dakota coach is using his battle with cancer to encourage others to help fight the disease.
Don Meyer is asking those in the Aberdeen region to help build a new cancer center. Avera has plans for a center it expects to open late next year. The 25,000-square-foot facility comes with an estimated price tag of $13.5 million.
The center would be an expansion to Avera St. Luke's Hospital. Gov. Dennis Daugaard came Thursday to help kick off a public fundraising drive.
"The things done here will save lives. It will lengthen lives and it will make comfortable those who come here," Daugaard said.
Coach Meyer and his wife Carmen are two supporters of the plan. The expansion, which will house the cancer center, is named after them.
"We love all the tender care that Don's been given, not only at the cancer center but through the heart center also because unfortunately he has more than just one problem," Carmen Meyer said.
Dr. Richard Conklin has worked as an oncologist in Aberdeen for more than 20 years, serving patients in a 26-county area of North Dakota and South Dakota. He says dozens of patients see him each day, not to mention those who come for lab work or therapy.
"We have 150 people and 30 employees coming into a 5,000-square-foot area which is very cramped and very difficult," Conklin said.
The expansion, he says, will bring more than additional space. It'll allow him to recruit other providers and expand services. It'll also have state-of-the-art equipment.
"Dr. Conklin, he's like a 30-game winner in baseball, pitching in the minor leagues. He needs facilities and he's going to get them now," Don Meyer said.
Conklin says he's hopeful a new center will also connect his office with more universities which would link it to more national trials.