Within two weeks of MercyOne Central Iowa launching the public phase of a $16 million fundraising campaign for the MercyOne Richard Deming Cancer Center, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifted everyone’s focus and the capital campaign was put on hold. 

However, the cancer center’s mission and the need for the campaign will soon become more important than ever with an anticipated surge in cancer diagnoses as delayed screenings resume, says Shannon Cofield, president of the MercyOne Foundation. The foundation is now aiming to resume the fundraising campaign — which received more than $10 million during its silent phase before March — next month. 

“Because elective procedures were prohibited, the medical center’s major focus became treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and the MercyOne Foundation became the epicenter of supporting front-line health care workers,” Cofield said. “We were arranging for meal deliveries, accepting restaurant gift cards, hand-sewn masks and snacks to provide relief to our colleagues, thanks to the outpouring of community generosity.” 

In all, the foundation served over 4,000 meals, distributed more than 2,000 hand-sewn masks, and provided free snack stations every day for two months. 

Now, the timing to restart the cancer center fundraising campaign is urgent, Cofield said, because there will likely be a post-pandemic surge in cancer diagnosis expected due to delayed screenings.  

“The need to complete the campaign to construct the multidisciplinary patient-centered care cancer center and to offer compassionate care programs will be highly needed,” she said. “Patients diagnosed with cancer are immune-compromised, and it is important we have state-of-the-art care to treat them with the best treatments available.”  

The foundation will adapt to potential donors’ needs by offering virtual tours of the new space, rather than inviting people for in-person tours, Cofield said. Also, the foundation has expanded the campaign committee in an effort to widen the circle of possible donors. The foundation plans to promote the new CyberKnife S7 system that was recently unveiled as the innovative cornerstone of the campaign. 

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, and it has taught us much, it is that none of us can take our own health for granted or that of our family, friends, neighbors or community,” Cofield said. “We believe that this pandemic has brought public awareness to the importance of high-quality health care. We are hopeful as people consider their philanthropic priorities going forward, investing in a transformational health care project will be top of mind to ensure those most vulnerable among us are afforded the best care available right here in Central Iowa.”