Cancer treatment centre will now become a reality

It's taken less than four years, but the generosity of Northlanders, including a $1 million bequest, has seen the ambitious plan to raise $3 million to build a new cancer treatment unit at Whangarei Hospital reach fruition.

Three years and eight months after the Northland Community Foundation (NCF) pledged to raise $3 million for the construction of a cancer treatment centre in Whangarei through Project Promise, the target has been reached and exceeded with the help of a $1 million bequest from an anonymous benefactor in the Bay of Islands.

Project Promise has raised $3.67million. Just two weeks ago it was tantalisingly close to the $3million target but still $383,000 short.

A Bay of Islands family made the million-dollar bequest to the NCF to guarantee the success of Project Promise and to ensure that Northland's new Jim Carney Cancer Treatment Centre, which will be built on the grounds of Whangarei Hospital, would have money to assist with cancer services in the future.

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The family which made the bequest came to New Zealand from the USA, settling in the Bay of Islands in 1980, and consider themselves Northlanders and fortunate to have spent a large part of their lives in the region.

They are grateful for the benefit gained from being involved in the ownership and development of property in the area and wish to give something back to the community which has made their time here so pleasant and profitable.

In conjunction with the NCF, they have also established a substantial endowment fund to assist young people in Kerikeri who show potential, which will be created as part of the bequest and will, in the future, be available to students of Kerikeri secondary schools.

"It was like a huge weight lifting from our shoulders and we could scarcely believe the generosity of the gift," NCF chairman Richard Ayton said of the bequest.

"We'd set ourselves this immense goal at the start of September to re-energise the Project Promise appeal and to come up with the final million in just two months. I was cautiously optimistic we could do it but, truth to tell, there was always an element of doubt. Northlanders rose to the occasion though, as we knew they would, and now we're able to draw a line under this exercise and say: Promise kept."

The foundation knew that bequests could potentially turn the Project Promise dream into reality and began promoting it several months ago.

The final cost of the centre is expected to be around $5 million but Northland District Health Board has agreed to contribute the balance. The Jim Carney Cancer Treatment Centre is named in memory of the Whangarei businessman and philanthropist who died in November 2000 and the Carney family Trust has contributed heavily to Project Promise. The centre will provide day-stay treatment for cancer patients, including initial consultations, chemotherapy treatments and follow-up from medical experts, including other related nursing and support services, but some who need radiation treatment or have complex cases requiring specialist care will still need to travel to Auckland.